Vigil to honor those lost while experiencing homelessness

Dec 21, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:16 am

people hold candles at a vigil for the homeless community members that have lost their lives...

Brenda Somers, right, Astryd, 11, center, and Lilly, 6, along with other participate in the 2021 Homeless Persons Memorial Candlelight Vigil at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)

(Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY–  A candlelight vigil honoring those who died while experiencing homelessness this year will be held at Pioneer Park on Wednesday. 

According to a press release from the Fourth Street Clinic, at least 152 Utahs have died so far in 2022, exceeding last year’s number. 

The vigil comes on the heels of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s executive order authorizing the city’s shelters to open 95 additional beds. 

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and State Homeless Coordinator and board member of Shelter the Homeless, Wayne Niederhauser will speak at the event. 

According to the press release, of those who died this year, the youngest was 18 and the oldest was 78. Two of them were brother and sister, both having died at the age of 18, only two years apart.

The release noted that this is the only service many of these individuals will receive to be remembered.

Homeless service agencies in Utah believe the number of people who have died this year while experiencing homelessness exceeds the 152 reported, the release said. 

Assuring everyone is accounted for

According to the release, the Utah Office of The Medical Examiner will be tracking housing status at the time of death for anyone who passes away in the state of Utah beginning Jan. 1.

The statement said the data collected is meant to provide information on the average life expectancy of someone experiencing homelessness. 

It will also give statistical evidence on the causes of death of community members honored at this yearly vigil.

Furthermore, the  Fourth Street Clinic staff plans to work with outreach teams of homeless resource providers to confirm the names of those who die on the street.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Fourth Street Clinic, Janida Emerson, the vigil acts as an important community ritual. The vigil will honor each life behind the names read aloud and let the community grieve together.

The vigil is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Related reading: Help the homeless in Utah by shattering myths, says Utah advocate

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Vigil to honor those lost while experiencing homelessness