The Bloomingtonian

Homeless Memorial Vigil at the Monroe County Courthouse Wednesday

BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: A list of those who died in the past year before the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Thirty-two Monroe County residents who were either currently unhoused or had been unhoused in the past died during the past year. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Members of the Bloomington community gathered Wednesday to remember at least 32 members of the community who were homeless or had been previously unhoused when they died during the past year.

Forrest Gilmore, of Beacon, told The Bloomingtonian he believes the number being memorialized during the annual Homeless Memorial Vigil is a record. Previously 22-members of the community died in 2020.

Gilmore said when the vigils began 18-years ago five to ten people were dying every year. Gilmore said that over the past few years about 335 people are currently experiencing homelessness in Monroe County, but he didn’t have an answer for the 50-percent rise in deaths in the past year over the previous year.

Gilmore told the small crowd gathered that none of the people who died who were unhoused died of Covid, but one person who had been experiencing homelessness, but found a place to live, did die from Covid. The causes of death were various and did not fit a pattern according to Gilmore.

Kara Thompson, who works at Beacon, remembered her friend Terry Brandon. She said Brandon was always joking with her. In the five years Thompson has worked at Beacon she’s got to know many of the guests and has a hard time losing some of them. Thompson said she misses Brandon.

Robert “Pops” Downham, who has experienced homelessness in Bloomington over the past several years, left candles at the name of his friend JT Vanderburg. Vanderburg froze to death on the sidewalk surrounding Seminary Park last winter.

After several speakers spoke, the names were read one by one, and then placed onto the lawn. Candles were placed by the names.

BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Robert “Pops” Downham prepares candles before the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Thirty-two Monroe County residents who were either currently unhoused or had been unhoused in the past died during the past year. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Candles are lit in remembrance during the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Brandon was one of 32 area residents who died in the past year, and were either currently unhoused or had been unhoused in the past. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Candles are held in remembrance during the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Brandon was one of 32 area residents who died in the past year, and were either unhoused, or had been unhoused. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Robert “Pops” Downham remembers his friend JT Vanderburg during the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Vanderburg was one of 32 area residents who died in the past year, and were either unhoused, or had been unhoused. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Candles are left, “For those named and unnamed,” during the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Brandon was one of 32 area residents who died in the past year, and were either unhoused, or had been unhoused. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES – 2021/09/29: Robert “Pops” Downham hugs Kara Thompson near the name of Terry Brandon, during the Homeless Memorial Vigil, Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Ind. Brandon was one of 32 area residents who died in the past year, and were either unhoused, or had been unhoused. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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