HYANNIS – Human service providers on Cape Cod say that four times the number of homeless people died on Cape Cod this year compared with last year.
Thirty-two homeless or recently homeless people will be remembered at the annual Homeless Persons Memorial Service this year. The service takes place annually on the longest night of the year, December 21.
This year, the event is on Sunday at 5 p.m. The service begins with a vigil on the Hyannis Village Green and continues with participants walking to the nearby Federated Church of Hyannis for a service and fellowship.
Elyse DeGroot of Duffy Health Center said they do not know the reason for the four-fold increase, up from eight who died last year, but she mentioned as possible reasons the harsh weather conditions last winter and the opiate epidemic, which has resulted in a record number of overdoses and deaths from overdoses this year.
Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council have sponsored National Homeless Persons Memorial Day to bring attention to the problem of homelessness and to remember the individuals who have died over the past year while homeless.
“Our goal is to commemorate the lives of the mothers or fathers, sons or daughters who died on our streets or in our emergency shelters from illness or conditions directly related to their homelessness,” Heidi Nelson, CEO of Duffy Health Center, said. “In many cases, this service will be the only commemoration of their lives. It is imperative that these individuals be recognized and that their deaths not go unmentioned.”