Candlelight Memorial Held to Remember

     There are scores of homeless people dying each year in Cleveland. Some die from hypothermia or organ failure and some from unknown causes. For the past 15 years the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) has joined the National Coalition for the Homeless in observing National Homeless Memorial Day. NEOCH and Interact Cleveland has hosted a candlelight vigil for all who have died on Sunday, December 16, 2001 at Trinity Cathedral. Nationally, 60 cities had ceremonies to remember all homeless people who have lost their life due to being targeted, victimized and killed as a result of homelessness. These are the silent victims of society’s indifference to social justice for all.

     It is very difficult to determine how many homeless die in Cleveland each year. The Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office defines individuals as homeless only if their remains are not claimed. If the deceased was homeless at the time of their death and a relative claimed their remains then by the Coroner’s office that person was not classified as homeless. There are not reliable statistics available. Cities such as San Francisco do extensive research on the number of homeless people and have found that 100 homeless people die on their streets every year.

     At the ceremony at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland four people were remembered by name. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless remembered A. Rameriez, who was killed at the end of September at East 22nd and Davenport near the railroad tracks. There was also Johnny Davis, who was beaten to death near Micheal Zone Community Center on the West side of Cleveland. There was a friend to all homeless people known only as Chief who was also killed earlier in the year. David Campbell came to the podium and delivered a short eulogy to his friend Chief. He remembered Chief’s American Indian roots and his ability to survive in makeshift housing.

     Jim Schlecht, an outreach worker, talked about a man, James Gratchen, that he knew who died across the street from the VOA shelter. Gratchen died in October after living on the streets for years.

Budget cuts are being proposed this year for the Cuyahoga County and one of the cuts proposed would cut the homeless/indigent burial programs. The proposed budget cut will stop the current policy of burying indigent individuals.

     The vigil was during the weekly meal at Trinity Cathedral. Those who gathered for the meal were encouraged to bring the name of someone who has died due to being homeless and suffering the effects of poverty. Council president elect Frank Jackson, Reverend June Begany, and members of the NEOCH Board of Trustees were among the Vigil participants.

Copyright NEOCH published 2002 Issue 52