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memorial service for 150 homeless
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Memorial service for over 150 homeless people held in Salt Lake City

The Very Rev. Martin Diaz listens as Wendy Garvin, executive director of Unsheltered Utah, reads the name of someone who passed away and whose remains were never claimed during a service at The Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The cathedral and Neil O’Donnell Funeral Home jointly hosted a service honoring more than 150 people, many of whom were homeless, whose remains were never claimed. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A memorial service for over 150 homeless people was held Tuesday night in Salt Lake City. 

The We Are All One memorial was an idea of Chaplain Shantel McBride. She said it came to her after seeing the unclaimed cremated remains of 159 people who died on the streets. These deaths happened in Salt Lake City between 2018 and 2020. 

 “I just felt this heaviness,” McBride explained. “I thought gosh, how sad.” 

The service was held at Neil O’Donnell Mortuary. Chaplain McBride led the memorial, which also included musical performances from Alex Boye and local musician Scott Wright. 

McBride said they knew so little about the 159 people who died. What they do know is each person had a story. 

“Maybe they’ve suffered from addiction or just had problems with the family, and the families just said ‘we severed ties with them how many years ago, just do what you want with the remains.’ And then others, we couldn’t find. Some of these people might not even be from Utah,” McBride added. 

Prayers offered at the Cathedral of the Madeleine 

Attendees then walked to the Cathedral of the Madeleine, escorted by the Salt Lake City Pipe Band. 

After arriving, attendees were greeted by the Very Reverend Martin Diaz, Rector, with a prayer for the lives lost. 

The congregation was then invited up to read each of the 159 names from the pulpit. 

What’s most important to McBride is that the homeless in Utah know they are not alone. 

McBride said, “I just really want them to know that they’re not forgotten and that when they pass on they don’t just go and their life meant nothing.” 

She hopes to make this homeless memorial an annual event moving forward.