This year claimed the lives of 59 people in the Duluth area who were experiencing homelessness or were advocates for the homeless.

Unable to gather in person this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Duluth community members joined in an online version Thursday of CHUM'S Christmas Eve Vigil, where they paid tribute to those who died.

"All of these are children of God, and in this past year, we've lost them," said the Rev. Ben Margeson, Congregational outreach and advocacy coordinator for CHUM.

"If there's anything in preparing for this service that has dawned on me it's that we can honor them in their death and also strive toward a better future in the coming days, weeks, months and years," he said, urging people to continue their efforts to combat homelessness.

"We do this, because in all of our faith traditions, all of them, there is a mandate to love our neighbors, to care for the stranger and the sojourner, because God cares," the Rev. Kathryn Nelson of Peace United Church of Christ said.

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"COVID has been such a time of sorrow, but it has opened up new ways of caring, too," Nelson said. "I give thanks for (CHUM Executive Director) Lee Stuart and the way that Lee has helped the city, the county and the private sector to work together. As Lee has said: 'People have truly come to see the need for housing first.' Yes. Yes. Yes."

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