On Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21, 2016, PFFC held it’s fourth annual vigil to remember over 50 people who died on the streets in Washington DC during 2016. An important theme was how needless many of these deaths were; had they received vouchers for housing in time they may not have passed away.
The Vigil began Tuesday late afternoon with an opening ceremony at Luther Place Memorial Church where over 150 attendees heard moving speeches from representatives from the People for Fairness Coalition, Catholic Charities, and the Way Home Campaign. The ceremony was followed by a candlelight procession to Freedom Plaza where with some 60 participants, many holding placards of with the names of those who died in 2016.
An open mike session followed dinner. A number of homeless and formerly homeless spoke of the challenges of living on the streets. Council Members Nadeau and Grosso spoke as did Patty Fugere, Director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless who delivered a message of hope. Before retiring for the night to sleep in the tent participants delivered packages of warm clothing (thermal underwear, hats, scarves, gloves) to people sleeping on the street.
On Wednesday morning Vigil participants did a walk through the Wilson Building. At meetings with DC Council Chairman Mendelson and with Council Members McDuffie and Evans participants presented their asks for investment in the FY 2018 budget in permanent supportive housing (PSH); targeted affordable housing (TAH); rapid re-housing (RRH); and support for adding homelessness as a protected class to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.
At 10:30 am Vigil members carried out their annual procession with an empty casket, to remember those who died on the streets, to the New York Ave Presbyterian Church where the had lunch and attended a memorial services hosted by the National Coalition for the Homeless. Following the service Vigil participants carried the casket to a patch of grass in front of Luther Place Memorial Church where the planted the placards in front of the area containing the ashes of Mitch Snyder and other homeless individuals.
The Vigil received wide media coverage, from: the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper; Street Sense; NBC Washington, NPR, and WUSA 9