Thirty-three Homeless Remembered at Homeless Memorial Day
On December 21, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., over 175 people, including homeless families, a group of non-profit agencies and interfaith congregations, gathered for a Union County Homeless Memorial Day Vigil hosted by Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Springfield.
This event, open to the public, was held on the longest night of the year and chosen as a time to remember all homeless people who died during the past year due to their lack of shelter or care.
Community Access Unlimited, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Family Promise of Union County, HomeFirst, Monarch Housing and the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council organized this event.
The Union County Homeless Memorial Day Vigil was the culmination of the first Homeless Sabbath which engaged twenty-four congregations in Union County as well as three outside of the county to change the conversation about homelessness and seek solutions to end homelessness.
Participation in the Homeless Sabbath included:
- Willow Grove Presbyterian Church in Scotch Plains performed “No Room – Now and Then” Christmas drama presented in worship December 18, 2016. Click here to view a video of the play.
- Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Springfield heard from Monarch Housing’s CEO Richard W. Brown about how we can and will end homelessness.
- Msgr. Tim Shugrue of St. Michael’s Church in Cranford wrote a column on page two of this link about homelessness.
- Pastor David Knecht from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Springfield published a pastoral letter entitled “Tis the season to remember the homeless in our area.”
The Union County Vigil included a reading of almost fifty names of those who died during the past year, music and interfaith readings.
Among the clergy who spoke were:
- Pastor J David Knecht, Holy Cross Lutheran Church
- Rev. Vicky Ney, First Presbyterian Church in Springfield
- Rabbi Renee Edelman, Temple Sha’arey Shalom Springfield
- Deacon Jerry Bongiovanni, St. James Roman Catholic Church Springfield
- Malika Jafri, Islamic Religious Leader
- Rev. Caroline Unzaga, First Presbyterian Church of Cranford
- Deacon Laverne Williams, Union Baptist Church in Montclair
- Rev. Carmine Pernini, Zion Lutheran Rahway
- Rev. Jane McCreedy, Faith Lutheran New Providence
- Msgr. Timothy Shugrue, St. Michael’s R.C. Cranford
Organizers in Camden, Bergen, Hudson, Mercer and Middlesex Counties held similar homeless memorial and vigil events on December 21.
Homelessness continues to be an issue in Union County and all of NJ. On the night of January 26, 2016, 513 people, including 62 people without shelter, experienced homelessness in Union County, according to NJ Counts, the Point-In-Time Count.