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Rockford Area Sees Increase In Number Of Homeless Adults Who Died In 2017

Jenna Dooley
Candles represent the 43 people who died in 2017

Rockford citizens took time Thursday to remember the lives of homeless adults who died in 2017.

More than 40 homeless adults died in the area in 2017—an increase from previous years. They ranged in age from 26 to 67. The event was hosted by the Rock River Homeless Coalition.

Credit Jenna Dooley
Residents remember the homeless adults who died in the Rockford area in 2017

Todd Kisner is chair of the group. He says a handful of social service providers worked in some capacity with the people who died. They communicate with each other throughout the year to track the deaths.

Kisner says the memorial service is a way to celebrate those lives, “...to give a chance for the community and friends and family who may not have had that chance when the individual had passed to say our goodbyes.”  

Organizers lit a candle for each person who died.

Fr. David Beauvais led this year’s service with a message for those gathered, many who are part of social service groups that work with homeless adults in the area.

“Keep lifting up the dignity of the people we serve," he told them. "Keep reminding us that these are all family members. They all have loved ones. They have people who care about them in one way or another. Yet, they don’t always get the recognition or have a nice service that we always have for people.”

A similar service is held each year on the first day of winter.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
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