Remembering the Homeless in Atlantic, Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties and Recognizing the Formerly Homeless Rebuilding Their Lives
Towards the end 2017, timed around December 21, 2017 which marked longest night of the year and the beginning of winter, communities across New Jersey held homeless memorials and vigils.
On December 18, 2017, The Press of Atlantic City reported “Atlantic City lights candles to remember those who died homeless in 2017.” The Atlantic City 12 annual candlelight vigil was held December 19, 2017 at the William L. Gormley AtlantiCare HealthPlex.
“Many were there to seek help themselves and honor the memory of people who died while homeless in 2017.
‘I want to wake up and hope that today is the day,’ said Sandy Festa, executive director of the Healthplex. ‘What I mean by that is, I hope the person who needed drug treatment yesterday got the treatment they need. I hope the person who was hungry got the food that they need.'”
In addition to remembering those experiencing homelessness who passed away in 2017, the candlelight vigil highlighted the struggles of those experiencing homelessness.
“Vanessa Vitolo, who grew up in Absecon and graduated from Holy Spirit High School, said she knows the struggle and hopelessness that can come with living on the streets while also battling an addiction to heroin.
She told the crowd about how a prescription for an opioid painkiller led to an addiction where she left her home, family and friends for a life on the streets of Atlantic City.
“The hopelessness that you feel, I can relate to that,” she said, “but I also want you to know, I sat across from the president of the United States in March and I told him, three years ago I was homeless on the streets of Atlantic City and today I’m sitting across from you fighting for the people who feel like they’ve been forgotten.” Vitolo is now in recovery and works as a community outreach worker.
On December 18, 2017, InsiderNj reported on a “Vigil in Dover honoring National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day.” Members of and friends of the Green Party. gathered in Dover, NJ on December 21, 2017 to remember the homeless in Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties for a first annual Homeless Memorial. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Dover hosted the event on its front lawn.
Homeless Memorial Vigils also took place on December 21, 2017 in Camden, Bergen, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex and Union Counties.