A memorial for those who died while homeless has more names than ever
The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness held a memorial at Matthewson Street United Methodist Church on Wednesday to remember “our friends, family and loves who passed away while experiencing homelessness in 2021.”
The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness held a memorial at Matthewson Street United Methodist Church on Wednesday to remember “our friends, family and loves who passed away while experiencing homelessness in 2021.” Over the course of the service, 42 people were mentioned by name, but advocates and outreach workers understand that the number is higher. Those named were those who were known.
Samantha Burnett organized and emceed the memorial with the help of many volunteers from Matthewson, Amos House, the Constituent Advisory Committee, the Tenderloin Opera Company, David Eisenberger, and many more.
The memorial comes at a time when homelessness is at an all-time high in Rhode Island. According to the state’s Homeless Management Information System, in the two weeks ending September 24, approximately 405 individuals have been reported as living outside (unsheltered) in Rhode Island, including 57 households with children. This is five times the average number of Rhode Islanders forced outside prior to the COVID pandemic, and it is likely an undercount as there are not sufficient outreach workers to contact all of those living in the estimated 80+ encampments. Those in need of shelter cannot get it because there are hundreds on waiting lists for emergency shelter as winter approaches, say advocates.
“It is tough right now, you guys,” said Burnett, near the end of the program. “It is tough out there. The calls don’t stop. People are getting evicted. People who have never been homeless are getting evicted. And it’s going to be a rough few months for all of us.”
Burnett introduced Caitlin Frumerie, Executive Director of the Coalition. “This is a hard event every year that we do it,” said Frumeie. “We have more names that we’re going to memorialize today than we have in the past… Each one of the names that we’re going to recognize was a baby once. They didn’t choose who they were born to. They didn’t choose a lot of their circumstances. They certainly didn’t choose to live in a country where housing isn’t a basic human right…”
Alex Gautieri lead the crowd with an “Intention and Reflection.”
Samantha Burnett read a poem, “The Invitation,” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
People in the audience roe and read the names of the people to be remembered, and every person had a candle lit for them. At last count there were 42 names.
The Tenderloin Opera Company say a song:
David Eisenberger read his poem, “Contemplation.”
Closing remarks came from Samantha Burnett, Caitlin Frumeie and Margaux Morisseau.