Service honors homeless people who died in Richmond: ‘They are still neighbors’

RICHMOND, Va. — A service on All Saints’ Day at Bethlehem Lutheran Church honored the couple dozen people experiencing homelessness that passed away over the last year in Richmond.

Claire Finch with Commonwealth Catholic Charities, a homeless services provider, helped create the event to provide a space where the lives lost could be memorialized.

“They may not have been remembered in a capacity outside of this memorial,” Finch explained. “They are still deserving of compassion and other people’s time. They are still neighbors in our city.”

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The event was hosted in conjunction with the church, Homeward and Commonwealth Catholic Charities. 

For Finch and the other providers in attendance, the service was personal since they work with people experiencing homelessness to connect them to resources to survive and get back on their feet.

“It’s hard because there are some people that some of us didn’t know passed until this memorial,” Finch said. “It’s hard knowing what they were going through and what may have led to their passing.”

Claire Finch


Claire Finch

While Richmond currently does not have a permanent year round shelter in place, city leaders are working to change that

In fact, city council members will hear Monday night the details of a proposal by the Salvation Army to open a shelter on the city’s Northside that could house nearly 100 people.

If approved that shelter could open as soon as Friday, Dec. 1.

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Finch hopes each name read will serve as a reminder of people whose stories deserve to be remembered.

She said events like this are needed so these lives are acknowledged.

“I hope this time next year there are less names to read at this memorial, which means there are less people dying unsheltered,” Finch said.

A city-run inclement weather shelter is operating on some nights in a building on E Broad Street. However, city officials noted that building has a limited capacity, which is why they are exploring other options.

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