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Nearly 300 people died while living on Austin streets last year. That's a record.

A person with a microphone stands in front of a tree, with printouts of people's faces strung up beside him.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
Charles Guidry Jr. gives a speech Sunday at the annual vigil for Austinites who've died on city streets. The 296-person toll was the highest recorded since the nonprofit House the Homeless began the memorial 30 years ago.

Two-hundred-ninety-six people experiencing homelessness died on Austin’s streets over the last year.

Each one was remembered — even if they didn’t have names — with a single chime from a crystal vase Sunday morning on the shores of Lady Bird Lake.

Denver-homeless-vigil_MM-121122.jpg
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
Denver Gonzalez has been attending House the Homeless' memorial for the last few years — first as someone experiencing homelessness and, now, as someone who's gotten off the streets and into a home. Gonzalez rang a crystal vase for each name on the list of 296 people who died in 2022.

The nonprofit House the Homeless has been hosting the vigil for 30 years. Advocates coordinate with the Travis County medical examiner and the community to compile a list of the dead. This year's death toll exceeded last year's 251-person count and set a record.

Some of the people who died — including five adults and an infant — couldn't be identified by any next of kin. Their names were unknown.

Chris Baker, who runs The Other Ones Foundation, says it doesn’t have to be this way. He said he hopes a new City Council takes a more aggressive approach in working with nonprofits to prevent these deaths.

 Printouts with the photos and names of people who died this year are attached to a park bench.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
Printouts with the photos and names of people who died this year are attached to a park bench.

"To give the appropriate send-off to every person that died on the streets we’d have to do this every day," said Baker, whose nonprofit helps get people into housing. "And the toughest part of the whole thing is when you get to the end, and you’ve got people who you only got a street name for, you’ve only got a first name for. Then, you’ve got five people and a baby. What are we doing? What are we doing?"

At least 3,600 people live outdoors in Austin, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition's most recent count. Local leaders have a half-billion-dollar plan to house them within the next few years.

Baker and others say that housing can’t come soon enough.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at aweber@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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