Annual memorial honors Philly homeless who’ve died in 2016

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Elaine Heyl-Taylor, known to friends as Lainey, was one of some 200 people honored in a ceremony across from City Hall Wednesday evening.

“Lainey was a talented artist,” recalled Jaclynn Ries of the Veterans MultiService Center. 

Ries told a crowd of several hundred, many holding candles, that Heyl-Taylor was loved by many. She was a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran and had just completed a housing application when she was killed in a hit-and-run accident this summer.  She was 37.

Kevin died unexpectedly of a drug overdose over the summer. David Malloy with the treatment center NHS Parkside Recovery said that doesn’t minimize what he was trying to do to better himself.

“I think if Kevin was here, he’d want me to say that a hundreds times, that no matter how hopeless you feel you always have an opportunity to live two lives in one lifetime,” Malloy said.

As part of the annual tradition, now in its 21st year, city and community leaders read the names of people who had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives and had died this year.

Sister Mary Scullion with Project Home stressed the need to redouble efforts to end homelessness. She pointed to the opioid epidemic and uncertainty surrounding funds for housing subsidies and health care as major challenges looking to 2017.

“The people who’s names we read tonight did not die in vain, but they move us to a deeper commitment to protect the basic social and civic rights of all,” she said. “Because we believe that none of us are home until all of us are home.”

About 700 people are without shelter in Philadelphia, based on a city count taken in early 2016.

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