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Silent March through Downtown an Eerie Reminder of Homeless Dead

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From the guy riding the trains all night to the kid curled up on a sofa in the library, the Twin Cities' homeless drifters are easy to spot but quickly forgotten.

Thursday night, about 100 silent marchers cut a wide path from the Hennepin County Government Center to the Simpson United Methodist Church, hoisting a 10-foot tall effigy of a ghost-face homeless man to make people look a little closer at the people who have died in the streets this year.

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Simpson's 30th Annual Homeless Memorial March honors 158 homeless, formerly homeless, and advocates who passed away in 2014. Last year, the count was 150, and in 2012 it was about 101. Steve Horsfield of Simpson Housing Services says it's not a matter of improved data collection -- as long as inner-city housing remains impossibly expensive, people aren't going to move off the streets. The situation's no better in outstate Minnesota, where public transportation and shelters are scarce.

After 30 years of watching the numbers of homeless dead do nothing but rise, Horsfield said, "I'm just absolutely weighed down by today."

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The walk in the cold, which follows the path many homeless take each night in search of shelter at Simpson, is a kind of mass memorial for those who died without much attention. Horsfield says even if a person has been homeless for years, police can usually locate next of kin to make funerary arrangements. Other times no one arrives to claim the homeless, and advocates have to scrap together the funds for a burial.

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