There was standing room only at Christ Church Cathedral downtown for the annual memorial service honoring the homeless who died in Indianapolis in the last year.
A candle was lit and a church bell tolled for each of the 50 names read by Alan Witchey, executive director of CHIP, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.
A woman who is lucky to have never been on that list shared her handwritten story from the pulpit. “My name is Catina Hill and I am a recovering alcoholic and addict,“ she says.
Hill was molested as a child and turned to prostitution at a young age to pay for her drug and alcohol habit. For over 20 years she lived on the streets, struggled with the law and lost custody of her kids.
“So one day I prayed and I asked the Lord to keep me and bring me out of this…excuse me…hell hole," the audience chuckled. "I don’t know what happened, but the next day I was guided to these people – wonderful, caring people," Hill says.
Knowing that by reaching out she was able to escape homelessness, she hopes by sharing her story that she can help someone else.
Witchey says his work with CHIP is personal. His grandmother was homeless. He says having the memorial service on the solstice is fitting. “It is not because it’s the longest night that I think it’s appropriate," he says. "It’s because tomorrow will be shorter in darkness and the night after that will be shorter. And this is a time that things shift from going darker to going lighter.”
Witchey says sadly, 10 more homeless people died this year than last year. A bell also tolled once for all the homeless that died that Witchey says are only known to God.
He says local outreach teams and shelters are not only in need of warm clothing and non-perishable food items this winter, but they’re also in need of more people help to end homelessness in the city.