Skip to Content

‘The Dead Have Names’ ~ Vigil Pays Homage to Homeless Who Died on L.A. Streets

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]inda Mulvey died homeless. She was 59 when she was found unresponsive in a downtown alley. Donald Ruby died after collapsing on a sidewalk, a five-minute drive from a hospital. And the body of Donald Rickman was found in the driver seat of the car he lived in. He was 70.

They were among the 1,989 people identified by name as having died homeless in Los Angeles County from January 2016 to June 2018, according a list of homeless deaths [downloadable link] investigated by the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Beside each name on the list are such details as their “death date,” “death place,” and “death address.”

On New Year's Eve, about 50 people filled the front rows of the cacophonous nave of the First Unitarian Church in Koreatown to remember people who died unhoused on L.A.’s sidewalks, in its its alleys, encampments, and in cars.

RELATED: Full List of Names from the Homeless Deaths Vigil

All photos by Philip Iglauer.

“The dead have names,” said Rene Moya, director of Housing As A Human Right. “Public policy failed them and it continues to fail the tens of thousands of unhoused people, residents of Los Angeles County.”

A modest floral arrangement decorated the church pulpit, flanked by lines of small electric candles placed on the stage. Some of the people in attendance crowded in front, standing to get a better view of a procession of speakers who bore witness to homeless people who succumbed to life on the streets of Los Angeles – hundreds and hundreds of whom are rarely identified.

RELATED: Another Death on the Streets ~ More than 1,200 Homeless People Died in Los Angeles Since 2017

Officially, 720 unhoused people died in 2016, 806 died in 2017, and 463 died in the first half of 2018 — but the actual number could potentially be much higher.

The coroner doesn't investigate every homeless death, said Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition To Preserve L.A. “The fact that we were able to get these names is a miracle.”

“I think it is just that we have not hit the importance level for the media yet that these are real people,” Stewart told L.A. Taco. “It’s hard for people to absorb the idea that these are not just ragged losers. There is a whole story behind each one.”

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]ne person likely not on the list was a man called Larry, who was killed in 2016, said Mel Tillekeratne, who leads efforts at the Monday Night Mission and in the #SheDoes Movement, which works to expand shelter services for homeless women.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Mel, I know you always forget, but I want you to remember this: I need pants. My pants size is 32 x 30. I need new pants. Write it down because I know you are going to forget,’ he said.” That was one of the last times Tillekeratne talked to Larry.

Tillekeratne never got a chance to help Larry get a new pair of pants. His body was discovered hunched over on a toilet inside the L.A. Mission. He likely bled to death after he was stabbed in the kidneys, Tillekeratne said. “When you look at these names I want you to picture the people you pass by every day. These are human beings,” he said.

“If we want to change this we have to get angry. That is the only way this is going to change. If we don’t get angry we will be here next year and we will read 1,500 names.”

RELATED: Murdering a Homeless Person Should Be a Hate Crime, City Council Says

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

‘I Wasn’t Prepared For This:’ Placita Olvera’s Iconic El Burro Is Given A 30-Day Eviction Notice Following A Unanimous Vote on Thursday

This Thursday, the Board of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority Commissioners voted to evict La Carreta despite attempts from the family, community, and even the city council to save it. 

July 13, 2024

Downtown L.A.’s First Proudly Queer-Owned Dispensary Is Thriving

The disco ball and neon signs illuminate a wall dedicated to LGBTQIA+ products at Green Qween. Despite the queer community being at the forefront of medical marijuana usage during the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, today, queer representation remains low in the cannabis industry.

July 12, 2024

What To Eat This Weekend In L.A.: Whole Lobster Katsu, Cannabis Omakase, Smoked Brisket Agnolotti, and a Carne Asada Fest Discount

This Saturday, EVERYone is invited to the carne asada. Asada Fest, to be specific. Plus, two new restaurants team up to bring an enticing new menu at Echo Park lake's boathouse restaurant.

July 12, 2024

This Veteran Journalist Wrote a True Crime Book About Gangs Taxing Streets Vendors in MacArthur Park

In his new book "The Rent Collectors: Exploitation, Murder and Redemption in Immigrant L.A." (Astra House, out this month), former Westlake resident Jesse Katz dives into the life of a teenaged member of the Columbia Lil Cycos gang.

July 11, 2024

His Taquería Is Almost At The North Pole, But He Gets His Tortillas From L.A.

This lone taco truck sits in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, a visa-free Island that is home to about 2,900 people from over 50 nationalities located a few hundred miles from the North Pole. The owner is a Swedish taquero who is so obsessed with L.A.-style tacos, that he decided to open the most northernmost taquería in the world.

July 11, 2024
See all posts