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Justice

The Reluctant Undertakers

What does a city do when homeless people die?
A cemetery marker for hundreds of individuals buried in one plot together in King County.
A cemetery marker for hundreds of individuals buried in one plot together in King County.Molly McCluskey

WASHINGTON, D.C.—When Reverend Dr. Catriona Laing arrived at her office several weeks ago, she found a note from a parishioner that a homeless member of her congregation had committed suicide on a construction site nearby. Citing confidentiality, the city wouldn’t provide any information on the man’s death. Through the grapevine of churches like hers who serve the city’s homeless, however, she was able to determine the details, confirm that his next of kin had been notified, and host a memorial service.

“He was a regular member of our community,” said Laing, the associate rector of the Church of the Epiphany. “It was fitting that we have a good send-off for him, a proper send-off.”