ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A memorial service honored the lives of homeless Rockfordians who died this year on Tuesday evening.
Organizers said that it is important to remember those who have passed away, and that some of those who are recognized each year never have a proper funeral service.
“Many of them don’t have family or friends, people that could put on funerals or memorials for them,” said Angie Walker, Homeless Program Coordinator for the City of Rockford. “So, in a lot of cases, this is the only memorial they’ll have.”
More than two dozen homeless people died in the stateline in 2021. Their names were read aloud one by one on Tuesday evening, and a commemorative ornament was placed on a Christmas tree in Davis Park.
Attendees included many people who work with the city’s homeless population on a regular basis. That included Kay Larrick, Executive Director of Carpenter’s Place non-profit shelter.
Larrick said that the service was emotional for all involved.
“This year, one of the losses really touched our heart. It was the result of a hit-and-run accident of one of our guests,” Larrick said. “It really is a big loss, I really saw more of him than I did many family members.”
The memorial is an annual tradition for the Northern Illinois Homeless Coalition. It is held each year on the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day and longest night of the year.
“This is kind of one of the hard days when you’re obviously outside, not that any of them are easy,” Walker said. “But, being that it’s the longest period of darkness and longest that they have to be out in the cold.”
“We’ll probably only be here an hour at most, and for many of those we serve it’s many, many hours everyday that they’re outside,” added Larrick. “So, we get just a taste of what they lived with, and how bitter it is.”
Similar memorials were held in other cities across the country on Tuesday. It is known as National Homeless Persons Remembrance Day.”