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Honoring homeless Hoosier lives lost during the pandemic

A special ceremony held Monday
Posted at 6:44 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 19:02:09-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The pandemic has put many Hoosiers in vulnerable positions, without jobs and some without homes. 87 people experiencing homelessness who passed away this year in Marion County were honored Monday.

“This has been such a tough year for so many and it hits those experiencing homelessness just that much harder,” said Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, CHIP Executive Director.

The loss is nearly double what the county experienced last year. “You’re already talking about individuals and families that are in the midst of extreme vulnerability and crisis, and you add an additional crisis on top of that,” she said. “I think that’s the impact that we’re seeing this year and it’s heartbreaking.”

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention — or CHIP — lit a candle to mourn the 87 known people lost and an additional candle for those unknown. “Continue to say their names, continue to tell their stories, and let’s tell the stories for those who are still struggling,” said Haring-Cozzi.

CHIP’s executive director says in the height of the pandemic, housing services slowed down. “Continuing to expand the rent relief work the city has been doing over the past couple years is going to be vital and when eviction moratoriums are lifted over the next month or so, then having that legal assistance work becomes critical too to working with people before they lose housing,” said Haring-Cozzi.

The nationwide eviction moratorium was ecently extended through the end of January. As new legislation continues to come out around recovery efforts, it’s important people are know about their rights and resources available to prevent homelessness. “There are organizations for example like the Ross Foundation and the Tenants Rights Union that’s getting that information in the hands of household that may not know what’s out there," said Haring-Cozzi.

While Monday was a somber day, she says, it also marks a time of hope and reaffirmation to help those roughly 1,500 men, women and children who are homeless on any given night in our city.

Urging us to remain steadfast in the fight for better outcomes for Hoosiers, gone too soon. “Going into the holidays I think everyone acts with extra compassion and kindness and I would just say keep that throughout the year," said Haring-Cozzi.

CHIP is also asking that local residents continue the tradition of making a donation to winter relief efforts in Indianapolis by working directly with shelter and housing partners.

Items that are in need include blankets, coats, hats, gloves, warm wool socks, hand warmers, and single-serving nonperishable food and drink items. Donations can also be made directly to Street Reach Indy [chipindy.org], which provides flexible funding to overcome barriers to housing and care for those living unhoused.