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People gather to remember Philly homeless

About 100 people gathered in the cold Thursday evening at Dilworth Park in Center City to remember homeless or formerly homeless people who died this past year.

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About 100 people gathered in the cold Thursday evening at Dilworth Park in Center City to remember homeless or formerly homeless people who died this past year.

The "Homeless Memorial Day" program included a reading of all 149 names, personal anecdotes, music, and poetry. Attendees held candles and signs with the names of the deceased.

According to the January 2014 Point in Time Count, there were 5,738 homeless persons in Philadelphia, either on the street or in shelters.

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Program speakers told personal stories about people they knew who had been homeless and had died.

Rob Wetherington of Pathways to Housing PA told his story of Thomas Marchesano, a homeless man who lived in an alley on North Broad Street. For two years, he accepted food from Wetherington, but refused to take shelter. This year, Marchesano accepted housing and died in his apartment.

Sam Santiago of Outreach Coordination Center spoke of Herman Roman, a Mexican immigrant who was homeless. Santiago said Roman never lost his faith and had a "picture of the Virgin Mary right above where he died," under I-95.

Nathaniel Hill Jr. of Impact Services and a Marine veteran who was formerly homeless, spoke about the negative stereotypes that homeless people have. "We need to look a little deeper,” Hill said. “We all have problems.”

“Even those of us who have jobs are possibly just one paycheck away from being homeless. The only way we will really have public policies that help to end homelessness is to recognize that every human being has a fundamental worth,” Dyke Sparks, one of the program organizers, said.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell presented a City Council proclamation declaring Dec. 18, 2014 as "Homeless Persons Memorial Day."

 
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