FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)-Dozens of people paid tribute to the more than 20 people from the homeless community who lost their lives in 2017. That's more than half of the people who died in 2016.
This year, December 21, is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year so the Rescue Mission held the 'Longest Night Memorial Walk' to commemorate their lives. The Rescue Mission Rev. Donovan Coley says in many cases, the service is the only time their lives are honored.
"By reading their names it means they have an identity and they were a part of our community of compassion. Each one of these persons who are from age 25 to 65 that was somebody's boy and that was somebody's little girl at some point," said Coley.
Participants walked from the rescue mission to Trinity English Lutheran Church.
"Some of them have added so much value to our lives, so while we are mourning and grieving, we're also celebrating their contributions as well," said Coley.
Coley says there are many reasons why the deaths in 2017 doubled from the year before.
"Many died as a result of others victimizing them, or maybe poor choices on their part, or just natural caused. We're not blaming the victim, we want to honor each individual because each life is precious before our almighty God."
But he says, a little more love from the community can go a long way.
"Having a panhandler on the side of the street while we suggest don't give any money, we should engage them in conversation and try to point them to resources. "
For people in the community who want to help, the Rescue Mission can benefit from monetary donations as well as heavy-duty gloves and men's underwear.