At least 19 people who have experienced homelessness died during 2007, according to Crisis Ministries, Charleston's emergency shelter and service provider.
The agency will hold its third annual Homeless Persons' Memorial Day service at 5:30 p.m. today in Marion Square, honoring those who died and raising awareness of a year-round issue that poses a particular challenge during winter.
The service is performed in conjunction with 100 other cities, according to Nicole Bulone, community relations director for Crisis Ministries. Mayor Joe Riley is scheduled to attend, and the Rev. Don Day of First (Scots) Presbyterian Church will offer an invocation. The Unitarian Church choir will sing hymns.
The tri-county area has about 3,000 homeless inhabitants, Bulone said. The shelter assists about 1,400 people each year.
"The community thinks of us during the cold weather months, and that's wonderful," Bulone said. "But homelessness is a 365-day problem," and a life and death issue. The primary reasons for homelessness are health problems, medical debt, low wages and a lack of affordable housing, she said.
The 19 people who died this year were identified by Crisis Ministries with help from other service agencies. They all were served at one time or another by the shelter and probably did not have a proper funeral, Bulone said.