Several hundred people endured a frigid late Thursday afternoon at Dilworth Park in Center City to remember 149 people who died in the last year who were homeless or formerly homeless.
Some held signs with the names of the dead:
Major L. Fife IV.
Robert F. Schork.
The "Homeless Memorial Day" program included a reading of all the names, as well as poetry and music. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was among those who attended.
Derrick Ford, who hosts a talk show on WURD-AM (900), introduced the speakers and performers. He recalled his own time living on the streets in Center City.
Ford said the first thing people need to do when addressing homelessness is to recognize "the fundamental dignity of all persons."
He looked at the crowd and, noting the turnout, said: "This is a community that cares about dignity."
Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, told a reporter after the program that the city had already experienced its first recent homeless death from cold weather, when a man was found dead in Kensington several weeks ago.
Scullion said the city had counted nearly 6,000 homeless people during its last tally. The numbers have been shrinking in Center City but have gone up substantially in the neighborhoods, she said.
"More and more, the neighborhoods are feeling the pain of homelessness," she said.
City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell presented a Council proclamation declaring Dec. 18, 2014, "Homeless Persons Memorial Day."
During the program, speakers recalled people they knew who had been homeless and had died.
Thomas Marchesano lived in an alley behind a shopping center on North Broad Street, said Rob Wetherington. He refused to seek shelter, but accepted food from Wetherington.
"He'd ask for one big burger and one little burger . . . or noodles with white sauce," Wetherington said.
Marchesano resisted help with housing for two years, but then "Tom decided to go inside."
Wetherington, without elaborating, said Marchesano died in his apartment.
Sam Santiago recalled a man named Herman, a Mexican immigrant "who never made it back."
Herman had a "picture of the Virgin Mary right above where he died," under I-95, Santiago said.
The Rev. Domenic Rossi remembered John Smulligan Jr., a 30-year-old graduate of New York University, whose body was "found in a pile of snow" at Ninth Street and Ridge Avenue in January.
Nate Hill, a Marine veteran who was homeless for a time, said many look down upon the homeless, but "we need to look a little deeper" beyond stereotypes.
"We all have problems," he said. "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."
When movie stars die, their passing is "mourned by millions," Rossi said. As for the homeless, he said, "God remembers them, and in God's name, so do we."