Candlelight vigil remembers homeless

(Plain Press, January 2006) Homeless people who have died this past year were remembered as over 200 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on the first day of winter, December 21, at St. Patrick’s Church on Bridge Avenue.  The vigil, sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Care Alliance, honored the memory of thirty-two homeless people who passed away in Cleveland in 2005.

At the vigil the names of those who died over the last year were read. Many of the deaths were the result of hate crimes targeted against individuals whom society had forgotten.

A homeless man was killed in Cleveland this past year when he was run over by a truck that did not stop. After a few years of no hypothermia deaths on the streets of Cleveland,  Cleveland lost Butch Dorsey on East 52nd and Superior Ave. on December 5, 2005.   Mr. Dorsey had listed the shelter at 2100 Lakeside as his residence and died in the cold weather.  

“Homelessness is a Healthcare Issue” was the theme of this year’s event.  Most deaths of homeless people in Cleveland and in the United States are as a result of neglecting proper health care regimens.  The National Health Care for the Homeless released a study on the day of the event, called “Premature Mortality in Homeless Populations,” by Dr. Jim O’Connell. The study, which can be found at, concludes that “homeless persons are 3-4 times more likely to die than the general population.”

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Care Alliance note that adequate housing is not all that is needed to keep people alive in our cities; homeless people need access to prescription drugs, medical personnel, and warm places to recover from injury or chronic health conditions.

Speaking at the event were: Brian Davis, President of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), State Representative Michael Skindell, Reverend Kelly Byrd, Linda Somers, and Greg Reaves.

Representative Skindell spoke about the need for universal health care in Ohio and, in general, about healthcare needs in the country.

Reverend Kelly Byrd spoke to the crowd about the hardships of being homeless and the lack of healthcare in the area, as did Linda Somers of Care Alliance.

Greg Reaves spoke to the crowd about his feelings about homelessness and read the list of the names of those lost to homelessness in the area.

Brian Davis spoke on the conditions of homelessness and lack of services to those who were homeless in the Cleveland area.

Local singer Josh Kanary sang and entertained the crowd for about 20 minutes.

Over 200 homeless people who were at St. Patrick’s for the memorial presentation were later served a delicious meal. After the meal, a healthcare clinic was held upstairs from the meal site.


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