Housing Crisis is Humanitarian Issue that Can’t Be Ignored; A Home Provides Peace and Stability – Join us for the Homeless Persons’ Memorial
On December 20. 2018, at 7:00 p.m., a group of non-profit agencies and interfaith congregations gathered at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Plainfield for the third annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil.
This event, which is open to the public, is held on the eve of the day with the least amount of daylight and the longest night, December 21. This day has been chosen as a time to remember all homeless people who died on the cold streets or living in dangerous abandoned buildings during the past year due to their lack of shelter or care.
“More often or not, most of us have the opportunity to say good-bye to friends and family on or after our passing and have closure,” said Pastor Angelo Wildgoose of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Plainfield. “The annual Homeless Vigil offers the opportunity to remember those who pass on the streets. St. Mark’s Parish embraces the opportunity to have a hand in helping God’s children in any way we can.”
Atlantic, Bergen, Hudson, and Mercer Counties also plan to hold Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil events this week.
The Vigil in Union County comes on the heels of a successful third annual Homeless Sabbath Weekend held across Union County held December 14-16, 2018.
“This event is made all the more important because there is no holiday celebration for the men and women who lost their lives trying to make it to a higher place in this life,” said Leonard Prentice who experienced homelessness in Union County.
On the night of January 23, 2018, 459 people, including 41 people without shelter, experienced homelessness in Union County, according to NJ Counts 2018, the Point-In-Time count. The Homeless Sabbath Weekend organizers believe that no one should be homeless for the holidays or at any time of the year.
“The housing crisis is a humanitarian issue that we cannot ignore,” says Geleen Donovan, Executive Director, Family Promise of Union County. “Those of us providing homeless shelter and services witness the onslaught of desperation in numbers that are rising on a daily basis.”
The lack of affordable housing in Union County has precipitated a crisis causing working families to become homeless. Due to cuts in state funding, shelter beds are being lost across the state and specifically in Union County.
The loss of the Plainfield YMCA shelter and the closure of Salvation Army shelter beds in Perth Amboy and some shelter beds in Elizabeth forces families and individuals experiencing homelessness to live in their cars, in storage units and in abandoned buildings. These individuals and families are being abandoned and forced to live in places that we would all consider uninhabitable.
Simeria Dewalt, 36 years old, experienced homelessness in Union County with her four children said that it changed her life forever. She became depressed and was suicidal while experiencing homelessness. She and her four children now live in their own apartment in Elizabeth.
Simeria attends graduate school, pursuing her master’s degree in social work. She volunteers for the Family Promise Union County program, her son graduated from high school and her three girls are attending school.
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