Activists will gather at Thomas Paine Plaza on Tuesday at 4 p.m. to call for an end to homelessness in Philadelphia and to honor the city’s homeless residents who have died this year.
Homeless Memorial Day is celebrated at more than 150 municipalities across the country. This happens every year on or around December 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, a particularly difficult time for rough sleepers.
The day of remembrance has been around since 1990 and the event in Philadelphia has been held for 25 years according to a press release from organizers.
In the park near City Hall, more than 300 names will be read by friends of the deceased and homeless service providers. But organizers say more than 400 homeless people have died this year.
This is the highest number of deaths reported since the first outbreak of the event, said Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, which provides services to Philadelphia’s homeless population.
People who were unhoused when they died and those who were able to find housing at the end of their lives will be commemorated as part of the ceremony.
The COVID-19 pandemic and opioid epidemic have placed a heavy burden on Philadelphia’s homeless community and contributed to many of these deaths, according to the news release.
“This event is an opportunity to invite others to recognize the value of all individuals,” said Jaquiline Watkins, a member of the event’s planning committee who works with the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission – a Christian organization that helps the homeless of Philadelphia since 1878. .
According to a to study conducted by the Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, there are 4,302 homeless people in the city, including 700 who are homeless, meaning they sleep in a place not intended for human habitation.
These statistics have dropped considerably this year. Between 2017 and 2020, the total homeless population fluctuated between 5,634 and 5,788 while the homeless population did not drop below 956.
Yet the study singles out one neighborhood that has seen a dramatic rise in homelessness – Kensington, which has become nationally famous as the epicenter of the opioid crisis.
The unsheltered population increased by 37% between May 2020 and 2021, from 261 to 359. The unsheltered population in the region decreases in winter and was only 245 in January, 22% more than the 201 reported around the same time last year.
As the city and local nonprofits continue to provide a wide range of services to Philadelphia’s homeless population, organizers and attendees at Tuesday’s event believe raising awareness of the issue is essential for the community. ‘eradicate.
“It is imperative that we continue to speak out about the challenges facing homelessness, poverty and addiction,” said Philly council member Jamie Gauthier, who is also a member of the planning committee.
Tuesday, December 21
Thomas Paine Square
1401 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102