Today We Remember Those We Lost to the Street

Here in Washington, DC, homeless advocates gathered for National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day on Dec. 17 to honor the 41 homeless people we lost this year. Around the country many more communities will observe it today, Dec. 21, a date which is meant to coincide with that of the Winter Solstice.

The date Dec. 21 has meanings both ancient and new. Communities in every era have paused in awareness of waning daylight and the promise of the sun’s return. In our era, some will pause to look for assurance that the world keeps turning. It is appropriate that National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is Dec. 21.

For people living on the street, the darkest day of the calendar is especially dark; for a person to die on the street is an ending that should be unthinkable. Homeless advocates, today, will pause to honor the neighbors and fellow citizens who passed away in 2015 without a home.

On the Alliance blog today, we will pause from studying homeless populations, from reporting on aggregate signs of progress in ending homelessness. With communities across the country, we pause in remembrance of each person who died on the street without a home. Each person had a name, a story, hopes and dreams, and human needs that went unmet. Each person experienced isolation but nonetheless was born of a family somewhere and likely still belonged in some way to a family – of either origin or affiliation. Each person is missed; each should remind us of social and political failures we are left behind to overcome.

And then, when we turn back to our larger goals of ending homelessness entirely, we carry this remembrance. We renew the commitment to reducing vulnerability of homelessness, as well as vulnerability to homelessness. As a member of a community of advocates, we speak for proven solutions – Housing First above all, then access to supports, family intervention for youth, treatments, and paths to independence.

Living and dying on the street need not be part of the human experience.