The Grand Valley Homeless Coalition says Todd Pierce was just one of many transients who die each year on the street. Sunday, they held a memorial service to remember those losses and reflect on the weekend's events.
It was a somber Sunday afternoon at Hawthorne Park as charity groups, transients, and community members met in front of a tree planted in memory of all those who have perished on the streets.
"This is an annual event to remember that people in our community have died without a home," said John Mok-Lamme, a pastor at Sojourner's Christian Fellowship, who led the memorial.
During the memorial service, the small group shared emotional thoughts and personal stories about those they knew. They then listed the names of the dozen or so homeless people they knew to have died this year -- finishing with Todd Pierce.
"It's just heartbreaking when people die on the streets, no matter what the situation," said Mok-Lamme. I just can't imagine what it's like for people on the street."
Dennis Hart says he can. It's something he experiences on a daily basis.
"Everybody understands the whole game out here," said Hart. "Survival."
Hart says in his travels, he'd met Pierce, who was known as Toad. He calls his murder just another sad turn of events that are all too common in homeless camps.
"There's too many unacceptable things out here," said Hart. "I do understand that people do get drunk and do get hurt."
As they lit candles in honor of the lives lost, those who attended the memorial say Pierce's death over the weekend only amplified the sorrow they were feeling Sunday.
"It happens and you don't really understand," said Hart.
They say it serves as a painful reminder of a growing problem in our community.
"You just gotta be hopeful that this is gonna stop," said Mok-Lamme.
The Grand Valley Homeless coalition organized Sunday's memorial.
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