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Memorial service honors lives others looked past

77 homeless people died on SA's streets in 2011


SAN ANTONIO - Wednesday marked the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.

Each year on Dec. 21, those who serve San Antonio's homeless community gather for a memorial service to remember the lives lost during the past year.

The names of each person who died is read aloud followed by the toll of a bell. The bell rang 77 times this year. Some died alone but they are not forgotten.

Michael Powers identifies himself as being homeless. He said he personally knew many of the names read at the annual memorial service.

"I know too many and a couple that didn't get read but that's all right, they're still remembered," Powers said.

Illness has kept Powers on and off the streets for the past few years. He was interviewed by KSAT-12 at the same service two years ago, just before the Haven for Hope campus opened to serve our city's homeless. Back then, he was hopeful it would help save lives.

"We were hoping that Haven could give the support necessary to reduce the count of the homeless that are dying and it appears it has," Powers said.

Navarra Williams, President and CEO of San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries, said most of the deaths were the result of untreated illnesses, something Haven for Hope is trying to change.

"The Haven for Hope Campus provides free medical service to homeless people so in that way some of them have come to the campus but yet they've come to late to make a real difference in their life," Williams said.

Those who work with the homeless community said they have the ultimate goal of one day recording zero deaths on our streets and in our shelters, but they admit that is a very tough challenge.

"We still have a long way to go to eradicate homelessness in San Antonio and across the country," Williams said.

Until that goal is reached, Michael Powers said he'll keep coming back each year to remember the lives other looked past.

"I might be next years list for all I know and I hope people remember me," Powers said. "So it's very important to me because they're not alone."


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