Minnesotans who died while homeless in 2007 will be remembered today

Simpson Housing Services is holding its 23rd annual march and memorial service tonight to remember Minnesotans who died while homeless this year.

More than 70 people who passed away in 2007 will be honored at the event, which starts at 5 p.m. with a march and silent vigil at the Hennepin County Government Center, 3rd Avenue South and 5th Street South.

The march will then follow 5th Street west to Nicollet Avenue and head south to 28th Street. A service of remembrance will take place at Simpson United Methodist Church, 2740 1st Ave. S., at 6:30 p.m. The service will feature bagpiping, reflections by loved ones of those who have died and a lighting of a candle for each name. Steve O’Neil, a longtime advocate for the homeless, and a St. Louis County commissioner are scheduled to speak.

A community meal will follow the service in the church’s basement at 7:30 p.m.

In a blog, John Petroskas, who has been charged with collecting the names of Minnesotans who have died while homeless the last three years, writes: “But as sad as collecting the names can be, there’s often a fragment of a story to accompany the name: the deceased was a veteran, a college graduate, a mother of two children, a musician. These details can be starkly revealing, heartbreaking, mysterious. How did a man with a Masters degree in English literature end up dying while homeless? How can a highly decorated Vietnam vet die of cancer while living in a shelter? We can’t always answer those questions at the memorial, but it does at least give us a chance to ponder them together. Helping to share the stories of those who might otherwise be forgotten is the reason that it is such a privilege for me to collect the names and to participate in the memorial each year.”

Simpson Housing Services sponsors the memorial march along with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, Shelter Providers Action Association and the St. Paul Area Coalition for the Homeless.

For more information about the event, go to Simpson Housing Service’s website.