Local officials and representatives of various faiths have honored the lives of 1,780 people who died in Los Angeles County in 2018 but whose remains were never claimed.
The ceremony, with prayers in multiple languages, was held Wednesday at a mass grave containing the ashes of the dead at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery. Like last year, the event was streamed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
County Supervisor Janice Hahn noted that the tradition of burying the unclaimed dead with dignity dates to 1896.
“We don’t know the life stories of the people we are burying today but we know many of them were homeless, some were children, some were immigrants, almost all of them were poor and for one reason or another they had no loved ones who could claim them when they passed,” Hahn said.
The county attempts to find next-of-kin and waits three years from the year of death before burying the ashes to allow time for family members to come forward. Unclaimed ashes from that year are then placed in a single grave with a marker.
“We know that they were loved by God. We know that their lives mattered,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Department of Health Services.