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Homeless, Indigent Dead Are Memorialized In Keys

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Florida Keys Outreach Coalition
The color guard from U.S. Naval Air Station Key West attends the Homeless Persons' Memorial Service each year. This year, 10 veterans will be memorialized.

  This year, 78 people will be memorialized at two services marking Homeless Persons' Memorial Day in the Florida Keys.

That's up from 54 last year. Stephanie Kaple, chief operating officer of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, said many factors contribute to the increase.

"I think that what this shows is probably our economic recovery is not as strong as we think it is," she said.

The list includes everyone who died homeless or indigent without anyone to claim their remains.

"There's 10 veterans on this list," Kaple said. "Those are 10 people who served our country. And in their death, we have no remembrance for them other than this. There are four infants on the list."

Kaple said the annual ceremony is an occasion to reflect on the price of homelessness, and of people who can't afford medical care or a safe living space.

"Folks who live on the streets for years, they die earlier. It's just harder on our bodies," she said. "Housing can save lives. And here are 78 individuals that maybe housing could have helped extend their lives."

The Outreach Coalition works with the Monroe County social services department each year to provide interment for the poor and indigent, and to read their names at the annual service.

"Everyone deserves that last memory," Kaple said. "Everyone deserves someone to say their name when they've passed."

The first homeless memorial service in the Keys is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday (Dec. 18) at the Key West Cemetery. The second is at noon Monday (Dec. 21) at St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church in Islamorada.