Community remembers homeless who died in 2019

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Community members gathered at Pioneer Park to remember the men and women who died while experiencing homelessness.

As of Thursday, an informal report by Fourth Street Clinic said 94 homeless men and women have died in the last year in Salt Lake County.

That number is down from 2018 (129) and 2017 (116).

But one life lost is too many.

Community members gather together to remember those who have died while experiencing homelessness.

With advocates speaking and a choir singing, Thursday night’s candlelight vigil had some like Lou McKee remembering friends who died.

McKee said she lived on the streets for a time after a domestic violence situation left her scrambling to pick up the pieces, and nowhere to go.

But homeless individuals, like Bones, took her in, as McKee worked to get back on her feet.

“These are people,” McKee said. “Bones died two years ago and when they say these names out, these are people who existed in someone’s life.”

McKee isn’t living on the streets anymore but says night’s like Thursday’s vigil brings back memories of those now gone.

Not all supporting the vigil knew someone who died.

Evva Jones was at the event with her mother who works at a local shelter.

She said remembering those who have lost their lives while experiencing homelessness is important to her.

“They most likely don’t have family to say goodbye to and most people won’t remember them,” Jones said. “So, it’s amazing that we’re able to have something like this and be able to remember them.”

Jones continues to say there’s a lot to learn from those who have and are experiencing homelessness and she’s grateful to be able to honor those men and women.

James Jarrad, with the clinic, says a majority of the homeless individual’s deaths were due to a chronic illness or an inability to get proper medical care.

He hopes the number of deaths will continue to decrease as efforts to support the homeless are made.

“We have too many people dying on our streets and we can do better,” Jerrard said. “And these organizations are working hard to make sure that we can get people in and out of services and into a stable home.”

In Utah’s 2019 homelessness report, it states nearly three thousand people are experiencing homelessness in the Beehive State.

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