Union County Homeless Sabbath Weekend and Homeless Memorial Vigil Remember Those Homeless at the Holidays
Geleen Donovan, Executive Director of Family Promise of Union County in Elizabeth writes the following op-ed reflecting on “No Pace Called Home for the Holidays,” as we celebrate the Homeless Sabbath.
In Union County, homeless men, women and children do not have a home for the holidays.
The main cause of homeless is the lack of affordable housing, anywhere and everywhere. According to the aptly named “Out of Reach” report, published annually by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in New Jersey, the “fair market rent” for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,420 per month. You would need to earn $27.31 per hour to comfortably afford this rent and all your other bills.
Once a year, we “count” how many people are homeless on a single night.
This past year on January 24, 2017, in Union County, 475 people were counted as being homeless. These 475 people included 164 children under the age of 18! And 55 of these persons were living un-sheltered and on the street.
As a “snapshot picture”, this number is most likely an under-count as the real number is probably twice as much. We do not count people who cannot be found – “invisible” people who live in cars or tents, people who alternate between self-paying for a hotel night and moving around from place to place, depending on the kindness of friends or family.
Many homeless persons are working! But they do not make enough money to pay the rent. In this country, they exist in the shadow of great affluence. More and more “luxury” apartments emerge in the place of older lower-rent buildings.
The people who cannot afford this high rent are your neighbors – teachers working with your children, certified nurses’ aides taking care of your elderly family members, servers bringing your meal with a smile, and retail workers helping you with your holiday purchases.
Have we forgotten them?
A group of caring people from non-profit agencies and interfaith congregations are asking people in our community to join us for a multi-faith “call to prayer” for the second annual Homeless Sabbath Weekend.
The Homeless Sabbath Weekend is held on behalf of all people who are homeless in Union County. Taking this step recognizes that homeless people living in our community and that we care.
On this weekend, we will collectively pray for our homeless neighbors and make the commitment to end homelessness and remember them every day. If you are a member of religious congregation, we ask that you include prayers and readings in your service(s) held on December 15, 16, 17th, 2017. Last year, 24 Union County congregations joined us. Please go to the Monarch Housing website for more information and suggested prayers.
There will be a “Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Vigil,” hosted by First Presbyterian Church, 11 Springfield Ave., Cranford, NJ, on December 21st at 7:00 p.m. This is the longest night of the year and has been chosen as a time to remember all homeless people who died in the past year because of their lack or shelter or care. All are invited to take part in a profound service of remembrance.
Take time to look at a person who is homeless, to look at why they are homeless and let them know they are not invisible- we see them, we care, we will help them. Prayers can lead to action and action can lead to change.
On Thursday, December 21, 2017, concerned and caring individuals in Union County will gather at the Union Count Homeless Memorial Vigil to remember those experiencing homelessness in New Jersey. Click here to learn more about the December 21 Homeless Memorial Vigil at First Presbyterian Church in Cranford at 7:00 p.m. Click here to learn about other vigils in NJ.