The city may have forgotten them, but HelpNYC did not.
They can be found sleeping in the streets and on the subway platforms, with hundreds of feet stomping by them each day where they are hardly granted so much as a second glance. They suffer in the blistering cold and burning heat. They are New York’s homeless population, and although they were looked over in life, on Dec. 21 they were remembered in death.
Pershing Square Plaza at Grand Central Terminal played host to a memorial late Tuesday night for unhoused individuals who unfortunately perished during 2021. Many rough sleepers are invisible amidst the hustle and bustle of the big city, so in order to show that their lives mattered, HelpNYC—a community initiative that provides direct services to people who are in need—honored the lost.
“We are here to remember New Yorkers who have lost their lives due to homelessness here in New York City,” Rue Parkin executive director of HelpNYC said.
On what marked the longest night of the year, onlookers lit candles and watched as those who have experienced homelessness read the names of the deceased that echoed on the frigid night air.
“We are all here standing in the cold,” Rev. Cassandra Perry began, “Don’t let us forget that not everybody has a home to return to. We just heard the names read of almost 400 individuals who lost their lives in 2021 simply because they are undomiciled. Being homeless should not be a crime and should certainly not carry a life sentence.”
This event not only served to underscore the tragic state of homelessness in the Big Apple but as cases of the COVID-19 variant Omicron begin to surge, it also was a stark reminder of what could befall anyone during a time when house and health is anything but certain.