Each year, Picture the Homeless takes part in the National Homeless Persons Memorial Day with an evening service honoring the lives of homeless New Yorkers who passed away in the past year and call for justice in their name. The December 21 winter solstice "Longest Night" event is held at Judson Memorial Church and include presentations from interfaith communities.
Longest Night of the Year Marked by Picture the Homeless - Greenwich Village Gazette, December 27, 2002
One of our earliest actions was trying to get onto Potters Field to memorialize homeless folks buried there back in 2000. This is the final resting place of many of our members and their friends and loved ones and homeless and poor folks that we don’t even know, but whose humanity we acknowledge. As often stated by Picture the Homeless members, it is a prison for the dead whose only crime is being poor. In August of 2004, Picture the Homeless received the devastating news that one of our organization’s co-founders, Lewis Haggins, who had been missing for months, had been buried in Potter’s Field on Hart Island. His body lay in the city morgue from December 2003 until February 2004 and during that time, no fingerprints or attempts to identify his body were made, so he was buried as a John Doe. Every two months, Picture the Homeless and Interfaith Friends of Potters Field hold a memorial service for those buried on Potters Field, the city cemetery for the indigent and unclaimed. Unfortunately, January’s list is already full, but contact firstname.lastname@example.org for future services.
Learn more about the Potter's Field Campaign.
2005 – Worked with Thomas McCarthy, unofficial historian for Hart Island, to include a memorial card for Lewis Haggins at correctionhistory.org.
2005 to Present – Forced the Department of Corrections to reverse its policy prohibiting friends and family from visiting Potters Field to pay their respects to homeless people who pass away. To this day, Picture the Homeless coordinates interfaith services on Potters Field six times per year.
2005 – Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field and members of Picture the Homeless’ Potter’s Field Campaign met with Deputy Commissioner Thomas Antenen of the Department of Correction to negotiate interfaith memorial services on Hart Island. As a result of that meeting, the Department of Correction has provisionally allowed bi-monthly memorial services.
2005 – Co wrote a liturgy with Union Theological Seminary Student Rev Amy Gopp, “With All Due Respect” to honor the lives of all those buried in Potter's Field. Union Theological Seminary hosted this memorial on March 3, 2005 and have and now adopted as part of their curricula.
2005 – Won the addition of a staffer person at the City Morgue to conduct additional identity verification for deceased Jane and John Does.
2005 – Won for the first time, the right for homeless people to travel to Potters Field to mourn a friend. Several members of Picture the Homeless, Lewis Haggins family and four faith leaders went to Potter's Field on Hart Island to celebrate a memorial for Lewis Haggins, our co-founder.
2005 – Members of the Potter’s Field Campaign made a journey to join St. Benedict Catholic Church on Hart Island for a memorial mass for those who are buried in Potter’s Field. Members of the campaign were unsuccessful gaining access to Hart Island, but the journey was recorded into a moving documentary film.
2005 – Joined Union Theological Seminary's Poverty Initiative to address the International Peace Council about the Potter's Field Campaign and about the inhumanity in which the poor are treated in New York City.
2004 – Inspired an interfaith coalition of faith leaders to form “Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field to support our work to open Potters Field to interfaith services.
2000 to Present – Convened an annual interfaith service for the homeless deceased on the “Longest Night of the Year, each December 21st at Judson Memorial Church.