On Coldest Nights Of Year, Vigils Call Attention To Homeless Who Have Died

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Marchers carry signs with the names of those who have died homeless in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless

Marchers carry signs with the names of those who have died homeless in Minneapolis.

At any given time, 9,300 people in Minnesota are homeless. On Thursday night, a vigil and march were held in Minneapolis to recognize those who have lost their lives on the streets, and two more events are planned between now and Christmas.

Marchers carry signs with the names of the deceased, and hold a vigil and memorial service. Anne Krisnik, who heads the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, said the idea is to recognize those who have died as individuals, rather than as homeless statistics.

“They may not otherwise have a memorial service, and the purpose of the event is to really recognize each of them individually, and honor their life,” she said. “They have families that care about them, and there are challenges that are putting them where they are.”

A Homeless Memorial Day Procession and Service, to be held Wednesday in Moorhead, will mark the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A Christmas Eve event is planned at noon at Duluth City Hall.

Eliminating the root causes of homelessness
Note: video at top of story is from a similar march in 2014 remembering 158 homeless people who had died.

Krisnik said advocates who provide food and shelter to those in need also are being recognized. She said they all have a common goal – to eliminate homelessness by addressing the root causes that put people out on the streets.

“If we can figure out a way for people with mental-health issues to get appropriate treatment, if we can figure out how to help people dealing with addiction, if we can make more affordable housing and meaningful opportunities available to people,” she said, “ideally, there would not be people who are homeless.”

Krisnik said Minnesota has made some progress, including a decline in the number of homeless veterans, and more assistance for people who need help navigating support services. However, there are still thousands of people statewide without homes.

More information is online at mnhomeless.org and mnhomelesscoalition.org.

Editors note: While the point of the march is to remember people as individuals rather than statistics, the numbers are eye opening. This year 171 homeless friends and 14 advocates who passed away. Of the individuals remembered, the average death age of homeless Minnesotans is 48. The average death age of formerly homeless individuals is 55.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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