Every year a small group of mourners gathers under a bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh to remember the lives of individuals who died while homeless. Each year, new plaques bearing the names of those who died in the last year are added to the memorial on the wall holding up the bridge carrying traffic from Grant Street to I-376 East.
This evening from 7 to 8, candlelight will play on the wall and the seven new names will be added to the 125 names of people who’ve died in Allegheny County over the years.
Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net organizes the event. Program manager, Stephanie Chiappini, said everyone is invited to come and remember the plight of the homeless and those who have died—well before their time, usually—of accidents, illness or violence. Donations of new hats, gloves and socks are needed for the Severe Weather Emergency Center.
Chiappini said, “Socks are always great. People that are homeless don’t have much time to sit down—they’re always walking. Sometimes they can’t take their boots off to sleep—it’s not safe—they need to be able to get up and run if they have to. Dr. Withers is always changing the socks and making sure people have dry feet.”
Monetary donations designated for Operation Safety Net are welcome at www.pmhs.org.
Operation Safety Net has served about 10,000 homeless individuals since 1992, when Dr. Jim Withers began making rounds at night to people living in alleys and under bridges.
December 21st is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. About 150 other cities will also be observing National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.