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Vigil will mark 2017 spike in deaths among Charlotte’s homeless people

Charlotte saw 28 homeless people – including a baby – die during 2017, which is nearly triple the number who died homeless the year before.

In 2016, 10 Charlotte people died while homeless, according to the Homeless Services Network.

On Thursday, Charlotte will hold its annual candle light vigil to remember those who died on the streets, as well as the formerly homeless who died while housed through shelter programs. The event will begin at 6:30 pm at the Hal Marshall Annex, 618 N. College St, and the public is welcome. The annex is a popular spot among the city’s homeless, where civic clubs and faith groups offer free meals and fellowship to people living on the streets.

Two of those 28 people who died on the streets were murdered, said Liz Clasen-Kelly, advocacy co-chair of the Homeless Services Network. Two others were hit by cars, and many of the others died of cancer or heart disease.

One was an infant girl who was found not breathing early Sept. 4 at a homeless shelter for women and children. The death was later ruled to be from natural causes.

At least 23 additional people are known to have died while participating in one of the community’s homeless housing programs. Last year, only 20 such people died while in those programs.

Among the homeless who died this year:

  • Joseph Bellamy, 38, was found by emergency responders on the 900 block of North College Street on Sept. 2. He was declared dead at the scene with “unknown trauma” on his body, police said. His death was ruled a homicide three days later. No one has been arrested in this case.
  • George Sumter, 62, was well known for pushing a shopping cart full of belongings along Monroe Road day after day. He died around 6:25 a.m. on March 14, near Monroe Road and Sardis Road North, after stepping into the path of a Chevrolet Malibu.

The Homeless Services Network is a network of more than 35 member agencies united to serve Charlotte’s homeless community and those who are most vulnerable to homelessness.

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