Friday, May 16, 2008


Tomorrow I speak at a conference of Students for Equal Health on the UW campus. The talk is titled "Black Death vs Homelessness. Which Is Worse?"

I told them my talk would be about: A summary of the debilitating effects of various aspects of homelessness. Sleeplessness, stress, vulnerability to the elements, to crime, malnutrition, and long term homelessness, including a comparison between being a Londoner during the Black Death and Hundred Years War to being homeless in Seattle in 2008. The need to treat stable housing as a prerequisite for basic health and a precondition for other treatments.

I'm expecting to have the use of a laptop while speaking, hopefully with a projector. Now, I've never, never, in my entire life used audio-visual aids. When I was a math professor I didn't even like to use blackboards. You'd be surprised how much you can illustrate with just your hands, if you put some thought into it. One time, to illustrate how a change of reference frame could alter the equations of a motion, I laid down on the floor to look up at the ceiling. From here, I said, the equations are very different.

I am not about to write a speech out and try to read from it. Instead, what follows is a pictorial and graphic outline that I hope to use during my presentation to remind me of remarks I plan to make. Later I may fill in the details for the benefit of readers of this blog. Until then, you could try to guess what that filler would look like.

I'll start with an introduction.

My childhood -- a contemplative moment.

My addiction and escape.

Some ways that homelessness impacts health:



Exposure to the elements.

Overcrowded, unhealthy shelters.


Self-destructive behavior (see also Stress).


Untreated & or poorly treated pre-existing conditions that may have even caused the homelessness.

My wakeup:

King County Medical Examiner's 2004 Report On Homeless Deaths.

St. Mungos, 2005 report on London homelessness:

Further statistics about the health of homeless people show that: Their average life expectancy is now 42, down from 47 less than a decade ago Rough sleepers between 45 and 62 have a death rate 25 times that of people aged between 45 and 62 from the general population.

Odious comparisons. Human Lifespans down the ages.

Obligatory Black Death image.

But -- child deaths skew the results. H O Lancaster.

After homelessness -- then what?

Long-term consequences & telomeres. Stress again.

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