Annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial: Remembering Chicagoans who died while homeless in 2020

On December 15, more than 250 advocates and community members gathered virtually to honor and remember Chicagoans who died this year while experiencing homelessness.

Now in its 11th year, the 2020 vigil was live-streamed from Old Saint Patrick’s Church, with both live and pre-recorded elements integrated throughout the presentation. 

“Sadly, too many people not only have to endure the trauma of experiencing homelessness on a daily basis, but also have unceremoniously passed away while experiencing homelessness,” said CCH Grassroots Leader Edrika Fulford, during an opening reflection.

“It is to those individuals that today we take a moment to acknowledge their valuable lives. Lives that matter.”

During the vigil, the lives of 43 community members were remembered by those who knew and loved them. Their names were read aloud and displayed on screen, as candles were lit in the background in memory of each life remembered. 

Those remembered were living in shelters or on the street when they died, including residents of Breakthrough Ministries, Franciscan Outreach, North Side Housing and Supportive Services, Salvation Army Booth Lodge, and the encampment under the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts. 

A moment of silence was held after all the names were read.

Director of Organizing Wayne Richard also shared a poem he wrote for the service.

“Watching the powerful ones take all that they had had left, it’s not enough for us to just say ‘ooh that’s a shame.’ We must remember and we must say their names,” he read. 

The full memorial service can be viewed online.

CCH estimates that 76,998 Chicagoans experienced homelessness in 2018, per an annual analysis that relies on the most current U.S. census data. This number is expected to grow in the coming year due to record job losses and an eviction crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chicago’s annual homeless memorial is affiliated with National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, one of more than 150 events across the U.S. organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

This year’s service was organized by:

  • Franciscan Outreach provides healthy meals, safe shelter, and critical services that affirm the dignity of men and women who are marginalized and homeless and empower them to gain the stability they need to transition into permanent housing.
  • Harmony, Hope & Healing creates an empowering environment of supported growth where individuals and families heal and rebuild through the restorative power of music.
  • Ignatian Spirituality Project invites people recovering from homelessness and addiction to encounter God’s love, hope, and healing through spiritual companionship that transforms lives.
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church leads a movement of change within the Catholic church marked by radical inclusivity, exquisite worship, and transformative kinship.
  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless organizes and advocates to prevent and end homelessness, because we believe that housing is a human right in a just society.