Candlelight Vigil Remembers Homeless that Died


        The number of homeless people who died on the streets this last year decreased was the message from the Northeast Ohio Coalitions for the Homeless at their annual candlelight vigil to remember those who died over the previous year. For the past 16 years NEOCH has joined the National Coalition for the Homeless in observing National Homeless Memorial Day. NEOCH hosted the candlelight vigil on December 15th at Trinity Cathedral located at East 22nd and Euclid at 12:30 p.m.. Nationally, 60 cities have ceremonies to remember all homeless people that have lost their life out of neglect, being targeted, victimized or killed as a result of homelessness. According to Savetta Durrah who helped to organize the vigil, “These are the silent victims of society’s indifference to social justice for all.”

       This year State Senator Eric Fingerhut provided appropriate remarks to the homeless individuals and advocates who gathered for this solemn ceremony. Savetta Durrah from the Homeless Grapevine said a few words and presented the list of people that she found had died over the last year. Gregory Jacobs, a deacon at Trinity Cathedral, provided a prayer for the homeless people who had died.

        It is very difficult to determine how many homeless people 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. These are not reliable statistics. The Cuyahoga County Coroner reported this year that there were no bodies that went unclaimed. This is the first time in 10 years that there were no bodies that went unclaimed. From the anecdotal information from outreach workers, NEOCH has determined there were fewer people who died on the streets of Cleveland this past year. There were only two reports of people killed for being homeless and two other people dying while homeless.

        Savetta reported Mr. Jenkins, Slim, Rodney, and Al Young as having died this year. She said in her remarks, “Poverty is cruel and without warning. Anyone ever living without basic human rights especially in this land of such prosperity knows just how cruel life can be.”

        Care Alliance, the local health care for the homeless, reported five of their clients who died over the past year. They reported Cassandra Hatcher, Vereta Smith, David McClendon, Bobby Gill, and Willie Jareta as having passed away over the last year.

        The vigil takes place after the weekly hot meal is served. Many homeless people stayed after the meal to remember their friends who had died.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine in December 2002 in Cleveland Ohio