(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indy has paid its annual tribute to homeless residents who died in the last year.
Nearly 200 people, including Mayor Joe Hogsett, raised candles as organizers read off the names of 87 people who died this year after facing homelessness — more than half were still homeless when they died.
The pandemic pushed the annual memorial service from its usual home at a downtown church to Zoom. Organizers made an extra effort to draw a picture of who the dead had been as people, rather than just names in the program. Staffers with Indy assistance groups talked about those they’d worked with, from their struggles with addiction and depression to the leather jacket that was one woman’s trademark.
Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, executive director of the homelessness prevention group CHIP, says the service reaffirms that homelessness and the personal struggles that led to it don’t define who the homeless were as people.
The annual service takes place on the winter solstice. Haring-Cozzi says remembering the dead on the day of the longest, darkest night of the year serves as a symbolic reminder of those who spend their nights in the cold.
The service was briefly disrupted by at least three Zoombombers who yelled profanities and racial slurs before being removed.