Archbishop José H. Gomez and religious leaders from across Los Angeles presided at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Life, Justice and Peace’s Homeless Persons’ Interreligious Memorial on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Taking place on the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, this memorial — a first for the Archdiocese of LA — acknowledged and honored the lives of homeless persons who have died on the streets.
The City of Los Angeles has one of the largest homeless populations in the country with approximately 69,144 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, an increase of 4.1% from 2020, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). As of November, 1,462 people experiencing homelessness have died on the streets of Los Angeles this year alone, according to the coroner’s office.
Michael Donaldson, senior director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese, saw the crisis and thought it would be a great opportunity to bring together religious and civic leaders to remember those who have died while homeless.
“These people have a legacy,” Donaldson said. “These people were important to our community, and they deserve a time to be remembered.”
Parishes, schools and hospitals throughout Los Angeles including St. Paul the Apostle Church, Westwood, University Catholic Center at UCLA, Dignity California Hospital Medical Center, St. Jerome Catholic Church, Los Angeles, Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Rowland Heights and St. Linus Church, Norwalk, held community collections for blankets, sleeping bags and socks to be distributed to those in need in preparation for the memorial.
“We are so grateful to gather as a united community to remember and give honor to our brothers and sisters who died experiencing homelessness. Each of them bore great dignity and played a special role in our society. We hope that this memorial will become an annual tradition that will serve as a light in our world,” said Donaldson.
The memorial was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Life, Justice and Peace, Sofesa and St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles and included interreligious leaders; Bishop Brenda Bos, Southwest California synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Rabbi Joshua Hoffman, president of the Los Angeles Board of Rabbis; Venerable Hui Dong Abbot of the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple; Hedab Tarifi, past president, of the Islamic Center of Southern California; Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Armenian Church Western Diocese; Rt. Rev. John, Harvey Taylor, bishop diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Rabbis; Randolph Dobbs, External Affairs of the Los Angeles Baha’I Center; Ali Twini of the Islamic Center of Southern California; Atilla Kahveci, interfaith dialogue director of the Pacifica Institute; Larry Eastland of the Widtsoe Foundation; Scott Tanner, interfaith director of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Debra Boudreaux, chief executive officer of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Charitable Foundation.
Dignitaries from across the city were in attendance including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass; Mayor of Monrovia Becky A. Shevlin; Mayor City of Bellflower Sonny R. Santa Ines; Marisa Creter, director, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments; and Katie Ward, staff member, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.
Please visit https://lifejusticeandpeace.lacatholics.org/homelesspersonsmemorial or call (213) 637-7477 for more information.