Vigil held to honor homeless people who died in DC this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Advocates for homeless people marched through the streets of the nation’s capital with an empty coffin as part of an annual vigil to the honor those who have died.

City data shows at least 117 homeless people have died in the district so far this year, The Washington Post reported. Data shows about 52 of the deaths were considered accidents, including 44 that involved intoxication and three that involved the person being hit by a car. Of the remaining deaths, 26 causes of death were still pending, two were suicides, eight were homicides and 27 were considered natural, including several that involved alcoholism or cardiovascular disease.

The seventh annual vigil hosted by the People for Fairness Coalition opened late Thursday with attendees singing hymns in front of the coffin at a local church before carrying it to Freedom Plaza. After the overnight vigil, participants attended a ceremony at another church where the names of those who died were read aloud.

The demonstrators called for local leaders to increase affordable housing spending and denounced what they called “dehumanizing” rhetoric from President Donald Trump’s administration.

The district is dealing with an affordable housing crisis in which housing costs are outpacing wages, said Laura Zeilinger, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services. The district approved about $291 million in spending on affordable housing for the 2020 fiscal year, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

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