A group of people wearing winter coats holding signs on as they walk on a D.C. street at night
Participants marched towards Franklin Square Park holding signs and candles. Photo by Rodney Choice / choice photography.com

At 5 p.m. on December 19th, an assembly gathered inside of Luther Place Church, which is located north of Thomas Circle on 14th St NW, to commemorate the lives of 81 people who died without homes over the past year. 

In front of the assembled congregation, speakers took turns sharing stories about people they knew who had passed away and spoke of the need of providing homes to those who need them. Flanked on either side by Christmas trees adorned with white lights, while mourning those whom they lost, the presenters also collectively lamented the injustice and indignity and senselessness of homelessness. 

Approximately 100 people had gathered in the audience, many of whom would soon carry signs bearing the names of those who lost their lives and march from the church down 14th Street to Freedom Plaza, where an overnight sleep out and vigil was held.  

While 81 men and women had been reported to the advocates who organized the event, The Washington Post published information it had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showing that more than 30 more — at least 117 people presumed to be homeless — had died in 2019. 

According to the Post, “The [D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner]’s general counsel, Mikelle L. DeVillier, said 52 deaths were classified as ‘accidents,’ including 44 cases of intoxication and three in which people were struck by a vehicle. Twenty-seven deaths were classified as ‘natural,’ including 12 cases of cardiovascular disease and six cases of ‘alcoholism.’” 

The next day, advocates lobbied city officials for increased investment in housing and homeless services. According to an analysis by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, only 3 percent of the city’s budget is spent on its main housing programs. 

Among those remembered were former Street Sense Media vendors Alice Carter and Chino Dean and a 67-year-old woman previously quoted in several Street Sense articles who gave her name only as Ms. Bobbie. 

Detailed coverage of these events will be published in the next edition of Street Sense. Our live social media coverage can be reviewed at www.tinyurl.com/MPMD2019