Claremont remembers those society has forgotten

Claremont memorials marking the spot where the homeless have died over the past 4 years can be found in all corners of the city. Many, like a bench at the Depot or the steps of city hall, are places commonly visited every day, but are not often noticed. Marchers with Occupy Claremont hope to put an end to that.

More than 50 gathered to silently march across the streets of Claremont Sunday night, remembering the homeless who have passed away along those roadways. Hosted by members of Occupy Claremont, Sunday’s display also served as a call to action to actively pursue an end to the issue being memorialized.

“The homelessness issue is much bigger than people think in this affluence place,” said Millie Carroll, an active participant of Occupy Claremont and Pilgrim Place resident. “We want the city and the public to act on it.”

The masses gathered at Claremont Depot in the late afternoon sun before embarking on the walk that would lead to the steps of City Hall and end with fellowship at Claremont’s United Church of Christ (UCC).

Charlene Tschirhart, Pilgrim Place resident, brought flowers from her garden to place as a tribute at each memorial site visited. Ms. Tschirhart says her participation in the memorial is to stand up not only for the city’s homeless, but for those struggling with foreclosures.

“We are standing up for these 5 homeless people who have died without forgetting that we are rendering more people homeless through foreclosure” Ms. Tschirhart reflected. “It’s all very alarming.”

The mission was sparked for many Occupiers after befriending many of the town’s homeless during the Occupy encampment at Claremont City Hall. Rancho Cucamonga resident Matt Keti, 22, says his participation in the encampment and befriending many of the city’s homeless helped him recognize the parallels in his own life.

“They deserve basic services just like anyone else,” Mr. Keti said. “They are people too.”

Occupy members were prompted into further action after the death of friend and local homeless man Phil Greene at City Hall in January.

“It made me realize that I am part of the problem,” said Rocky Supinger, associate pastor at Claremont Presbyterian. “The fact that someone died outside city hall and I didn’t even know about it is part of the problem.”

Sunday’s event was a step toward correcting the issue.

“It is hoped this memorial march and service will begin a determined city and public effort to resolve homelessness and bring dignity to all persons,” Ms. Carroll said.

A full account of Sunday’s memorial will be featured in this Wednesday’s edition of the COURIER. 

–Beth Hartnett


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