Homeless who died in 2019 honored at memorial event in Manhattan

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson speaking at the memorial on Wednesday. (Courtesy Care For the Homeless)

More than 150 homeless New Yorkers have died thus far in 2019, and they were remembered in a special way Wednesday with a proper memorial.

The annual event, called Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, was hosted by the nonprofits Care For the Homeless (CFH) and Urban Pathways (UP) at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 7 West 55th St.

This year, 153 homeless people were honored, and each name was read aloud as a bell tolled and a candle was lit. Several elected officials spoke, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi and City Council Member Ben Kallos.

A eulogy was also given for the four Chinatown victims who were beaten to death one night in early October. There were six other eulogies given at the event, and 15 people read the names of all those who had died in 2019.

Among those remembered at the event was Anedia V., a loving mother who received CFH’s Health Care Success award this past July at its Summer Solstice Success Celebration. Before the event, CFH shared a quote from Anedia: “Life is a blessing, life is a gift, and faith is power. We all have the same objectives in life: to love, feel joy, to teach, to learn; to become fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and friends. We are all part of the same team and we do so through strength, patience, understanding, respect, and love of one another.”

The memorial was held at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. (Courtesy Care For the Homeless)

The event’s stated purpose was not only to remember those lost in 2019, but to raise awareness of the ongoing problem of homelessness in the city.

“Housing and health are essential components to preventing and ending homelessness,” said Urban Pathways CEO Fred Shack before the event. “With [Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day], we’re acknowledging the value and dignity of each person, while also bringing attention to that essential connection.”

The nonprofits are advocating for more comprehensive lists of how many people are homeless in the city, and for more affordable and supportive housing to be built. They also support adoption of the Home Stability Support legislation, which would provide more housing subsidies for New Yorkers receiving public assistance.

“Even as we pause to grieve for those who passed away while homeless, we need to acknowledge that chronic homelessness can rob a person of 30 or even 40 years of life,” said Care For the Homeless Executive Director George Nashak before the event. “As a society, we have it within our power to end the modern-day homeless crisis. And it starts with rectifying poor policy choices. Better policies can end homelessness as we know it.”

The memorial event has been held for the past several years by Care For the Homeless and Urban Pathways, and it has been adopted elsewhere, according to the nonprofits, with over 180 cities expected to have a similar event this year.