Man who died in August among 31 honored at Homeless Persons’ Memorial

Memorial ceremony honors people experiencing homelessness who died in Jacksonville this year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The community remembered the lives of 31 people experiencing homelessness who died in Jacksonville this year during a memorial ceremony Wednesday morning hosted by Changing Homelessness and City Rescue Mission.

Among those honored was Wilhelm Rosa-Rivera, who died in August. He was a patient of Dr. Ana Turner, a psychiatrist for UF Health and Sulzbacher.

Wilhelm never had a funeral -- until Wednesday’s service.

“Everyone here was here to honor those people that were all on the streets and had no one else to celebrate them,” Turner said. “I think that shows how much value everyone’s lives have in our community.”

Right now, there are around 3,400 people in the city who do not have a place to call home.

“It was really valuable to hear everyone speaking about how we are all only one step away from homelessness. We are all alike in many ways. More ways alike than different,” Turner said.

Turner lost six people she’s treated this year alone. Their names were read and remembered among the 31.

Dawn Gilman with Changing Homelessness and Paul Stasi with the City Rescue Mission said the names honored Wednesday mattered and more needs to be done to make the list shorter next year and eventually non-existent.

“It’s sad to see that kind of human suffering is still here in America,” Stasi said.

“There are too many people sleeping on our streets that either cannot or will not go inside, so what do we as a community do to make sure that next year there are fewer names on that list?” Gilman said.

Wednesday’s memorial came at a time when every shelter in the Jacksonville area is opening its doors as dangerously low winter temperatures are approaching.

Gilman said the memorial service was a somber reminder that homelessness can be solved.

“Everyone who passed away was a human being,” Gilman said. “Someone’s family member, someone’s friend. Someone who had a life that they lived that was cut unfortunately short by their circumstances.”

Gilman said the biggest thing groups are doing now ahead of the cold temperatures is spreading the word throughout the community by “word of mouth” that their doors are open, especially for those who might not have access to TV or phones.

In addition to organizations telling people about shelters, police officers are doing the same.

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