At least 64 died on the streets this year in Snohomish County
EVERETT — Sixty-four people, if not more, died in Snohomish County without shelter during the past 12 months.
At the county’s Homeless Remembrance Day Vigil on Dec. 21 — the longest night of the year — a bell rang after each name to honor each individual. Ten were veterans.
The list is not exhaustive. Organizers gather names from sources who work with the homeless population and from news stories of deceased people.
But 2021’s was the longest list of county residents who died on the streets in the vigil’s 11-year history.
Some died of suicide because of the toll of being homeless. At least one person’s body was found in a tent camp area who died from drug-related causes. Others died from the simple weariness of being without shelter.
“I wish we had a different event today, celebrating 64 people in new homes. These lives were cut short,” said keynote speaker Galina Volchkova, the Senior Director of Housing Services for Volunteers of America Western Washington.
The risk of dying prematurely is real for homeless individuals. The life expectancy for a homeless person is estimated to be some 25 years shorter than the average American.
“Housing is a matter of life or death,” Volchkova said.
Each person was “someone’s brother, sister, son or daughter. Someone’s friend, someone’s keeper,” Jim Armstrong, the emcee and a representative from Snohomish County Veterans Homelessness Committee said in a speech. “Perhaps these lives will initiate a fresh call to action that will allow everyone the opportunity to thrive. We cannot allow their passing to be in vain. We just can’t.”
The county’s 11th annual vigil Dec. 21 was not done with a traditional public gathering outdoors to have people acknowledge feeling winter’s sharp chill. It was a produced video because of coronavirus restrictions.
The virtual proceedings included the posting of the colors conducted by the Naval Station Everett Color Guard and an opening prayer. The video closed with a recorded version of “Amazing Grace” in lieu of the crowd sing-along that was done pre-pandemic.
2021 vigil video:
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