Bahai News - Groups honor homeless who died this year

Groups honor homeless who died this year

Representatives of several community groups gather yesterday at Paupers Field, 3051 N. Oracle Road, to commemorate the lives of homeless people who died in 2001.
XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen

LA MONICA EVERETT-HAYNES
Citizen Staff Writer
Dec. 22, 2001

County created charity cemetery in early 1950s

Some homeless people live alone and die alone.
Yesterday, more than 100 cities across the country held vigils, graveside services, plays and performances in honor of Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.
Last night, for the 18th year, the Primavera Foundation co-sponsored a memorial vigil for the homeless people who died on the streets of Tucson this year.
Most of the 55 known dead were buried in Pima County's Paupers Field beneath granite gravestones no bigger than a telephone book.
"There are more who have died that we don't know of," said Gordon Packard, co-founder of the Primavera Foundation. "A person could be homeless and still have family member that take care of them so they wouldn't be in the 55."
A funeral procession began at 4 p.m. at St. Michael & All Angels Church, 602 N. Wilmot Road, and proceeded to the cemetery, where services began around 5 p.m.
Last year, 50 were buried at Paupers Field at Evergreen Mortuary Cemetery & Crematory, 3051 N. Oracle Road.
Other sponsors included the Casa Maria soup kitchen, Southside Presbyterian Church, BorderLinks, Tucson Planning Council for the Homeless, the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness and the Tucson Interfaith Coalition also sponsored the vigil.
Packard said that some of nearly 100 people in attendance - some homeless and others from the various groups - spoke about those they knew.
That was the only way to identify some of them, he said.
"Pima County didn't give us any names," said Packard, who is also an executive board member of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "These are people that the Pima County had to deal with because they either had no residence, no next of kin listed and no one to cover the cost of the funeral."
Personal information on most of the 55 victims was unknown. No one knew whether they had college degrees, if they were passionate about sports or the arts or if they had children or were ever married.
Many were unidentified: No one knew their names, their birth dates or their religious affiliations.

The foundation invited a Native American spiritualist and representatives from a mosque, a local Jewish temple, the Bahai faith and the Sufi and Christian communities to conduct religious services.
"We've reached out to other portions of the faith community because the tragedy we've experienced underlines the importance of faiths to come together during a time we celebrate peace," said Don Chatfield, Primavera's executive director.
Peace comes though understanding and a willingness to take on the responsibility of helping others, Chatfield said.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that 750,000 Americans are homeless on any given night and that 2 million people are homeless for some period of time.
Chatfield said that the average life expectancy of the homeless is about 50 years, compared to 71 years for nonhomeless.
That can include people who live on the streets, in homeless shelters, out of their cars or in campgrounds.
Packard said unrecognized homeless people also died in the World Trade Center attack.
They, too, were recognized last night.
"There are quite a number of homeless who have died right in the vicinity of the twin towers and they had not been acknowledged because they didn't have any ties," Packard said.
He said social service agencies began to wonder why those people just disappeared.
"This is not only remembering the dead, but it is a service of hope and faith," Packard said.
"We must renew our efforts to get in touch with that spirit that people have to reach out and help one another," he said. "To fight to remove the conditions that have caused these deaths so that we will worth twice as hard for the living."


©Copyright 2001, Tucson Citizen

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