Memorial service held for homeless who died on Los Angeles streets

LOS ANGELES — A memorial service for homeless people who died on the streets of Los Angeles County was held Wednesday on the first day of winter during the longest night of the year.

A service attended by newly installed Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, other lawmakers and clergy of several faiths was held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles in downtown LA

A federally required homeless count taken earlier this year estimated there were more than 69,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles County, including some 42,000 in LA city.

Nearly 1,500 people had died on the streets between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, according to the county coroner.

Candles were lit and minutes of silence held in their honor during the memorial, which was hosted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“In many cases, this service will be the only commemoration of their lives,” said Michael Donaldson, senior director of the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice, and Peace. “Let us become the voice for those who are not heard or seen by most, our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness. With this memorial, we say their lives matter.”

Similar memorials were held in other communities nationwide on Dec. 21, which national advocacy groups have designated National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.

Homelessness has become a critical problem in major US cities but especially in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city.

Trash-strewn encampments and rusting RVs have spread to virtually every neighborhood of the city, where according to 2021 figures fires caused by homeless people constituted a majority of all blazes handled by the Fire Department. About half of LA’s homeless suffer from drug or alcohol addiction and about a third have serious mental illnesses.

Bass took office this month and promptly declared a state of emergency to deal with the crisis. In New York, Mayor Eric Adams last month announced a plan to treat mentally ill people and remove them from the streets and subways, even against their will.

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