DES MOINES, Iowa — On the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, families gathered to pay tribute to homeless Iowans who likely won't receive a funeral or have families of their own to miss them.
Governor Kim Reynolds proclaimed Dec. 21 "Homeless Persons' Memorial Day." A vigil was held outside the capitol to read the names of 25 Iowans who died on the streets. Organizers from Joppa, a group that helps homeless people get back on their feet and hosted the vigil, said the names were given to them by shelters across the state and the number of deaths is likely higher.
"For many, dying homeless means dying alone and forgotten," said Joe Stevens, Joppa CEO and Cofounder.
Stevens told Local 5 the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more first-time homeless Iowans than he's ever seen.