Those who marched with the San Diego Rescue Mission Sunday carried pairs of shoes with them. Written on each pair was the name of a homeless person who died in the past year.
According to the mission From Oct 1, 2014 to September 30 this year 91 homeless people died on the streets of San Diego - nearly twice as many as the year before.
Elizabeth Mathews spent over 20 years of her life homeless and addicted to crystal meth. She now works full-time at the rescue mission helping women and children.
“I spent almost from the age of 22 to the age of 48 homeless,” Mathews told NBC7. “I was dirty all the time…I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from.”
She said her mother’s death was a wake-up call, and now she works on the clock and off trying to save others from going through what she went through.
"I talk to people all the time out on the streets trying to get them in. It's a never-ending job," Mathews explained.
Once the procession reached the San Diego County Administration Center each name of those who had died in the last year was read aloud – each followed by the solemn ringing of a bell.
“I wish we could have helped them,” Matthews said of the 91 people remembered Sunday.
“Most of these people were just like us before they became homeless,” Reverend John Townsend said after the ceremony. “It was an aberration, a variety of different events, but something that was outside of their control they became homeless. Some were forced out by fire; some were forced out by loss of job – a variety of different reasons."
An officer who spoke at the ceremony said that although it is deeply sad he hopes their deaths will inspire others to “continue to fight the good fight…and to provide for those who so desperately need our help.”
Sunday was the rescue mission’s 14th annual candlelight vigil.