CHUM Community Vigil Remembers Those Affected By Homelessness

CHUM's Street Outreach works with about 150-200 people a year.

DULUTH, Minn. – Nearly 100 people showed up at the steps of City Hall in Duluth for a memorial vigil.

It was to honor people who’ve been homeless or who were homeless and died in 2017.

“First off, they are people and they’re human beings and families. They’re part of our family. second, many of these folks are forgotten by our community,” said CHUM Executive Director Lee Stuart. “Many are invisible. Many are not known and so we want to remind people that they had lives like you and me.”

A total of 46 names were read. Forty–four of them experienced homelessness and were between 11 months to 75 years old. The other two were homeless advocates.

One of them was Raina. She was formerly homeless, but had been housed for about a year and a half. She passed away nine days ago.

“She was doing well, working full–time, had a heart attack and died at the age of 33,” said CHUM Street Outreach Case Manager Deb Holman. “It was one of the harder ones this year. I think it just goes to show that anything can happen at any time.”

Througout the vigil there were prayers and songs. The memorial helps show that there’s no such thing as other and those being remembered matter just as much as anyone else.

“They are our beloved brothers and sisters” said Stuart. “The broader one, they’re recognized as part of us.”

The people in the crowd were a mixture of advocates, friends, family, advocates and people that are homeless.

“It’s highly empowering, it’s emotional and very sad. We have a lot of young people this year that died in our community” said Holman. “As we stated the average age for people experiencing homelessness is about 47.”

Rachael Kilgour has come to the community vigils for a number of years. this year she came because her father, robert, was one of the homeless advocates being remembered.

“He was a contractor and helped out quite a bit at the Loaves and Fishes communities with One Roof Housing,” said Kilgour. It’s nice to have his name among everyone else equally.”

Some believe homelessness can end in Duluth and the solution begins with housing.

“I think it’s really important to remember that there are people who are living without homes in our community and we can do a little better job” said Kilgour. “We can always do a better job to make sure that they have housing and what they need.”

For many this vigil is an important part of their Christmas, paying respects to the homeless, so they don’t become the voiceless.

Donations were also accepted and items like gloves and hats will benefit those living outside and gas cards will help the ones living in their cars.

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