TACOMA, WA – A local gathering will be held on National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. The public is invited to Tacoma’s Shiloh Baptist Church, 1211 S. I Street, for an in-person gathering at 5:00 pm on Thursday, Dec. 21. The service is also being streamed online on the Facebook pages of Shiloh Baptist Church and Street Chaplains.
The service will memorialize a total of 295 who died while unsheltered in Pierce County in the past year; this number represents a 79% increase over last year’s death total. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study showing that involuntary displacement of people experiencing homelessness may cause significant spikes in mortality, overdoses and hospitalizations. Displacement happens from encampment sweeps, bans, move-along orders and cleanups that forcibly relocate individuals away from essential services, resulting in categorical harm due to a loss of community, safety and culture for those living unsheltered.
WHAT: National Homeless Memorial Day, Pierce County Observance
WHEN: Thursday, December 21, 5:00-6:00 pm
WHERE: Shiloh Baptist Church, 1211 S. I Street, Tacoma, and on Facebook
WHO: The public is invited
The average age of the 295 people who died was 53 years, significantly below the average life expectancy in Pierce County of 79 years. The youngest to die unsheltered was a 6-month-old infant, and the oldest was 90 years of age. Another particularly tragic death was that of a 6-year-old child who died from asphyxia while sleeping in a car with her mother in a shopping center parking lot in South Tacoma.
December 21 is winter solstice, the longest night of the year, making that a meaningful day to remember and honor those who died unsheltered during the previous year. National Homeless Memorial Day is observed annually on winter solstice in hundreds of cities in 30 states.
Locally, the Pierce County Council has issued a proclamation officially declaring December 21 as National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day in Pierce County.
Despite their status as having been unhoused, a local group called “Street Chaplains” organizes this gathering so that the passing of our houseless neighbors not go unnoticed by the wider community. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend regardless of faith tradition or lack thereof.
For more information, contact Ed Jacobs at 253-878-3811 or Street.Chaplains253@gmail.com