Walk memorializes deceased homeless
The Fort Wayne community came together Friday to remember the 25 homeless people who died this year.
For years, the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission has sponsored a walk on the longest night of the year as part of a national event organized by the National Coalition for the Homeless.
“We think everybody wants to be remembered,” said the Rev. Gary M. Erdos, who led the service at Trinity English Lutheran Church, which included singing “Silent Night” and a communion.
The church partners with the Rescue Mission for the walk and service.
Sharon Gerig, a pastor with the Rescue Mission, and Rebecca Karcher, director of communications and community engagement at Trinity Lutheran, read each name as people sat in the Krauss Chapel at the church.
“At least 20 came through the Mission,” Gerig said.
Age took some of the homeless people who died, Sally Becker Segerson, founder of Street Reach for the Homeless, said after the service.
“In some cases, it is tragically young people who made a life-altering decision,” Segerson said. Drugs, age and natural causes are part of the homeless life, where the average life expectancy is 54 or 55 years, she added.
The age range of those who died this year was 19 to 68, said Natalie Trout, the Rescue Mission’s director of marketing and donor engagement.
“It’s an incredibly hard life,” Segerson said.
Last year, the number of those who died was the same; in 2016, nine homeless people died.
Ben Gibson and Andrea Dunn, both members of Pine Hills Church, attended the service “to respect, love and remember our neighbors,” Gibson said.
Dunn said when Gerig and Karcher started to read the names, it affected her.
“I felt like I knew these people. Immediately I felt like I knew them,” said Dunn, who volunteers at the Matthew 25 Clinic.