Categories: New York City
Written by Urban Pathways' Nicole McVinua, Director of Policy and Abigail Hartwig, Policy Intern
On December 15th, Urban Pathways and Care For the Homeless hosted their annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day observance to honor New Yorkers who passed away in 2022 while unstably housed or due to the stressors of homelessness. They have co-hosted this memorial since 2016, and this year’s remembrance was the first held in-person since 2019.
Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is observed nationally on or around the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. For many of those honored, it may be the only remembrance that they receive.
The memorial featured remarks, poems, and a song. The most important part of the program is the reading of the names: the name of each individual lost is read aloud, followed by a tolling bell in remembrance. The readers include advocates with the lived experience of homelessness and service providers. Eulogies are also provided for some of those being honored, shared by those who knew them. This year, readers and eulogizers included representatives from Care For the Homeless, Urban Pathways, BRC, Breaking Ground, BronxWorks, HelpNYC, Knock Knock Give a Sock, Picture the Homeless, VOCAL-NY, and Volunteers of America – Greater New York. First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services Molly Park was also in attendance to share a moving eulogy in honor of those lost to struggles with substance use disorders.
Scott McDonald, Consumer Advocate at Urban Pathways, read a eulogy for Jane and John Doe. His moving remarks remembered those we lost this past year whose identities were unknown. Mr. McDonald stated: “We know these individuals had a life of value, a life filled with stories and wisdom that can no longer be shared with our community. We know they were also left vulnerable to the elements and at times to violence. There is no greater sorrow than burying someone with their identity unknown.” After Mr. McDonald’s speech, the bell tolled a heart-dropping 15 time through the silent crowd, in honor of the 15 unidentified New Yorkers honored. It is presumed there are additional unidentified persons lost last year.
In total, over 340 New Yorkers were honored, including approximately 15 people named by those in attendance. Following the invitation to share additional names of those lost, all attendees lit candles and held a moment of silence.
Will Woods, a Consumer Advocate at Urban Pathways, read the closing remarks of the 2022 Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. While a somber event, it is also meant to be an opportunity for the community to recommit themselves to advocating to end homelessness, as demonstrated by Mr. Woods’ words of hope. He urged people to use their sorrow as motivation to “create a reality where Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is no longer needed”.
A recording of Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day can be viewed here.
Press: Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil Honors Growing List of New Yorkers Lost in City Limits