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.
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