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The Longest Night memorial service remembers 12 who died unhoused

Twelve people who died while unhoused in the past year in our region were remembered at The Longest Night at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown St. Louis.

This was the 15th year of The Longest Night memorial service, which is held on December 21 – the longest night of the year.

Rev. Kathleen Wilder of Centenary UMC said the memorial service is probably the most important thing she is involved with each year.

“This is a time when we say every human being has value and every human being has made an impact in our world,” Rev. Wilder said.

After a song by Bill Byrd, Imam Muhamed Hasic of Islamic Community Center spoke about the importance of living together and sharing blessings with all. He asked those in attendance to imagine that the prophets are sitting among them, seeing – really seeing – our actions. He asked if we would be proud or ashamed of what they see.

In closing, he prayed that we, “Open our hearts to extend our hands to those who are in need and share in your blessings, and be proud as a human being.”

Next, Don Shipp, ACT Program Manager at Places for People, shared three brief stories.

Shipp’s final story was of a co-worker who died from cancer in 2019. On the day she passed away, her family and friends gathered in her hospital room. It was a family tradition to sing a family member to the next transition.

“That’s what I want for all of our homeless people. That they don’t die a stranger in our community alone and unknown, but that they, like the rest of us, have the opportunity to go to the next transition with all of their loved ones around us.”

That’s what I want for all of our homeless people. That they don’t die a stranger in our community alone and unknown, but that they, like the rest of us, have the opportunity to go to the next transition with all of their loved ones around us.

Don Shipp, Places for People ACT Program Director

Rev. Wilder recognized the 12 individuals who died unhoused in the past year, read their names and lit a candle of remembrance. She then led a candlelight vigil outside the church.

She said, “Whether the wind blows our candle out or not, let the light in our heart that loves our brothers and our sisters and our siblings, our sojourners, may it never go out, may it only grow stronger. And may it fuel us to do the work needed to end homelessness in our region, because it is possible, we just have to work together.”

This year we remembered:

  • Cynthia
  • Victoria
  • Braisey
  • Elandell
  • Michael
  • Julius
  • Nancy
  • Dennis
  • Denise
  • Matt
  • Steve
  • Darrick