At any given time, 9,300 people in Minnesota are homeless. On Thursday night, a vigil and march were held in Minneapolis to recognize those who have lost their lives on the streets, and two more events are planned between now and Christmas.
Marchers carried signs with the names of the deceased and held a vigil and memorial service. Anne Krisnik, who heads the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, said the idea is to recognize those who have died as individuals, rather than as homeless statistics.
"They may not otherwise have a memorial service, and the purpose of the event is to really recognize each of them individually, and honor their life," she said. "They have families that care about them, and there are challenges that are putting them where they are."
A Homeless Memorial Day Procession and Service, to be held Wednesday in Moorhead, will mark the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A Christmas Eve event is planned at noon at Duluth City Hall.
Krisnik said advocates who provide food and shelter to those in need also are being recognized. She said they all have a common goal - to eliminate homelessness by addressing the root causes that put people out on the streets.
"If we can figure out a way for people with mental-health issues to get appropriate treatment, if we can figure out how to help people dealing with addiction, if we can make more affordable housing and meaningful opportunities available to people," she said, "ideally, there would not be people who are homeless."
Krisnik said Minnesota has made some progress, including a decline in the number of homeless veterans, and more assistance for people who need help navigating support services. However, there are still thousands of people statewide without homes.
More information is online at mnhomeless.org and mnhomelesscoalition.org.