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Shelter director says homeless deaths this year highest in memory

tulsa day center
55 candles represent the lives of homeless or previously homeless Tulsans who died in 2021

Tulsa Day Center remembers 55 homeless or previously homeless people who died in the city in 2021.

The evening of the winter solstice on Tuesday was chosen for the symbolism of a long night. 55 candles were lit at the center as Executive Director Mack Haltom read the names of the departed.

Haltom said 55 is the highest number of deaths he can remember.

"I've been doing this for 20-plus years and I don't remember it being in the 50s like this."

Haltom said lack of affordable housing is a problem. He wasn't familiar with every cause of death but said COVID could have played a role, too.

Haltom said more families than usual are seeking services at the day center, as well.