A crowd of two hundred gathered in Dilworth Park to memorialize Philadelphia’s homeless last night.
“Wayne Leffield, Larry Bailey …” these are names of 151 homeless and formerly homeless people who died in Philadelphia this year. At the memorial, Jeanine Miller director of public policy for project HOME emphasized people do not have to die on the street.
“We have solutions to homelessness and we need to make sure that everybody has affordable housing, jobs, the services that they need,” she said.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Philadelphia’s unmet housing demand rose 45 percent this year.
Alfonzo Geiger has been with project HOME since May. He blames the increase on the economy.
“I’m a chronic homeless person, but I think that’s ending now,” he said. “It’s embarrassing. A lot of us have just fallen on hard financial times. We just need an opportunity to get ourselves back together. People have skills that they don’t have an opportunity to utilize because they can’t get back into the market.”
He says the memorial humanizes people who are easy to overlook.
“I’ve known people who have died homeless and it felt so horrible that it took so long for someone to claim their body,” he said. “It seemed like it meant nothing to the whole world. And that’s why this is such a big event for me. Somebody needs to talk about it.”