FORT WAYNE — On a night that made a warm bed a blessing, about 50 people bundled against the cold to walk through downtown Fort Wayne and bring attention to the issue of homelessness.
Led by a man carrying an American flag, members of the group streamed downed the sidewalk, toting flashlights as they trekked a few blocks from the Rescue Mission on Superior Street to Headwaters Park West.
Joined in a circle under a park pavilion, the group listened to a pastor’s homily and hunched their shoulders to stay warm as frigid winds whipped past.
Known as the Homeless Memorial Walk, the annual event and ones like it were conducted across the country on Friday, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. The event honors homeless people who have died and those who are still struggling with the issue, said Rebecca Karcher of the Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness.
“They’re all our neighbors, and some of us are much closer to being in their position than we even realize,” she said.
While at Headwaters Park, the names of eight homeless people who died in Allen County this year were read. With each name, the group responded by saying, “We remember you.”
Amanda Scheitlin, 51, said it was her first time attending the event. She came because she believes many people don’t realize the magnitude of the problem.
“If we have homeless people, we need to be doing something about that,” she said.
Aaron Johnson, a 21-year-old resident of the Mission, also took part in the walk. He said that in Fort Wayne people don’t have to sleep out in the cold.
“I spent plenty of my days outside, and every single one of them I chose to,” he said. “Nobody has to sleep outside. There’s so much kindness in this town.”