As the US economy disintegrated this year, millions of Americans faced unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, needing social services, or homelessness for the first time in their lives. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services identified 1,308 homeless people, including 164 families with children, in January 2008. That number grew to 2,242 in January of this year. That’s an increase of more than 71 percent.
Today marks the 20th annual observance of Homeless Persons Memorial Day. Begun in 1990, it is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the National Consumer Advisory Board. They chose December 21 because it’s the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. They want to bring public attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember those who suffered and died because our nation has failed to end it. Service and advocacy groups in more than 120 US cities held events to honor the homeless in 2008.