WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Friday marks Homeless Persons Memorial Day and cities around the country will honor those lives lost.
A group of homeless advocatesheld a vigil overnightfor the 26 homeless people who have died this year in Washington, D.C.
The vigil began at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue, where we caught up with advocates and formerly homeless peopleon Friday morning.
Later Friday morning, advocates and formerly homeless people held a rally at Freedom Plaza calling for affordable housing and more shelters. A funeral march and a memorial service at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church followed.
The National Coalition for the Homeless and People for Fairness Coalition organized the events.
WUSA 9's Delia Goncalves spoke to John McDermott andAlbert Townsend with the People for Fairness Coalition. They were among the homeless in D.C.at one point intheir lives. There are an estimated 15,000 homeless people living in D.C. with 1,700 of those living on the street.
Affordable housingis part of the fight. JohnMcDermott says a programhelped him get on his feet.
"The program is called Housing First. Housing First is a program that saved my life. Twice in one yearI almost died. Now that I'm in the housing program, I'm able to take care of my physical needs.I can keep my medicine where it needs to be.I can take my medicine on time. When I wasn't in housing,I ended up --I had to pick and choose where i could go to do these things.
"We're really out here fighting to ... wake up the city officials to say friends, Housing First. If you don't work it, we'll be dying on the streets," said McDermott.
Albert Townsend talked about the obstacles thathe had to overcome, saying, "My story is like John's.I went through transition, another form of housing that can help you change your life.I used that to help me get to the place whereI was, became an advocate and advocacy had me look at the process, how the city works and other different things that kind of magnify the work that really can change people's lives. That's howI got out. We're on the forefront of the work now.PFC is doing a great work and we'll continue to do the work."
Both men are volunteering with People for Fairness Coalition, working to make sure D.C.'s five-year plan to end homelessness become a reality from housing to mental health support.