Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day
The National Consumer Advisory Board, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council encourage our constituents to organize or take part in Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day events on or around December 21st, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. Learn why we remember this day each year through our HPMD Public Statement and Advocacy Agenda.
At these events each year, we remember those who have died and we strengthen our resolve to work for a world where no life is lived or lost in homelessness. We state clearly, together with others in scores of communities across our nation, that no person should die for lack of housing.
Local Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Events
Each Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event is unique to its community, but the events often include readings of names, candles, prayers, personal remembrances, marches, and moments of silence. They are often held outdoors, sometimes – fittingly – in the bitter cold. These events honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our collective failure to adequately address homelessness, and often include calls to address the systemic causes of tragically avoidable deaths.
A succinct Organizing Manual for HPMD is now available. In it you will find guidelines for planning these events, sample documents, and suggestions for addressing policy issues related to homeless deaths. Please use it to borrow ideas from others and to help create a moving and powerful local event.
For help in organizing your local Homeless Person’s Memorial Day or to let us know about your event, please contact Katherine Cavanaugh, the Council’s Consumer Advocate, or the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Sixty people who died while homeless in 2018 were remembered at Mercy Care on December 20 at the Robert L. Mason, Jr. Candlelight Memorial. The names of 58 people were read aloud as an individual candle was lit for each, and two more names were called out by the audience. Mercy Care staff, volunteers, patients and community members gathered to pray, mourn, and sing in honor of them. Following the service, coats, hats, gloves and other gifts of warmth including soup and hot chocolate were offered to those who call the streets home.
Resources for Planning Events
- HPMD Public Statement and Advocacy Agenda (2015)
- National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Organizing Manual
Resources on Deaths of People Experiencing Homelessness
- Mortality Among Unsheltered Homeless Adults in Boston 2000-2009
- Presentation from Sacramento and Philadelphia on Homeless Death Collections
- Homelessness and Health: What’s the Connection? | National HCH Council | June 2011
- Handout: The Hard, Cold Facts About the Deaths of Homeless People
- Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2013 | National Coalition for the Homeless | June 2014
- Premature Mortality in Homeless Populations | 2005 Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Report
- Suicide and Homelessness: Data Trends in Suicide and Mental Health Among Homeless Populations