For many, 2019 was difficult; for nearly all of us, 2020 has been immensely more so. Some have complained vociferously about having to spend much more time at home in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Their unending litany—“I’m so bored! I’m so frustrated! I hate staying home! I want to go out!”—overlooks one simple point: the incredible luxury of actually having a home to stay in.
Many have been unable to shelter at home for the most basic reason of all—they are homeless. One article suggests that through the end of October, 2020, the COVID-19 mortality rate for sheltered homeless persons in New York City was seventy-five (75%) percent higher than for those who have homes. (The article noted that due to a lack of data, it did not include mortality rates for unsheltered persons—in other words, those who were living on the streets rather than in a shelter.)
December 21 is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Last year, I attended a service honoring those who had died over the previous year while experiencing homelessness. As the organizer said, for many of them, this service would be “the only remembrance and recognition of their passing.” Afterward, I shared the following essay about the service, and about a homeless man named George who changed my life.
As we face the longest night of the year, let us not forget those who have no home in which to take shelter from the darkness.
December 21. The shortest day of the year. The longest night. The greatest darkness.
How fitting that this day is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Across the country, memorial services honor and remember those who have died in the past year while experiencing homelessness. Continue reading