Hope and Reflections on the Longest, Darkest Night of the Year

Jeff Foreman, Policy Director

Client leaders of Care for the Homeless observed Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on Saturday, the longest night of the year, memorializing by name over 90 people who died in New York City without homes in 2013, and recognizing hundreds and hundreds more. As each name was read a bell tolled, a candle was lit and that person’s name was projected on a wall. Several people were remembered with personal recollections and video presentations. Several audience members came forward with names of loved ones they lost.

But the message wasn’t bleak, it was hopeful. Care for the Homeless Executive Director Bobby Watts told those assembled he had confidence. “Homelessness is evil,” he said, “but we can destroy it. We can end modern day homelessness as we know it.”

State Senator Bill Perkins, whose Harlem district was the location of the event, said he “looked forward to a day of ‘homefullness’ when all people will have homes and healthcare as a basic human right.”

One of the dozen client leaders who spoke, Anthony Williams, said “Care for the Homeless is the best kept secret in New York, but their incredible work saves lives on the streets and in shelters every day.”  David Broxton, another client leader, said “better public policy can offer everyone in need a second chance.”

Along with the Homeless Persons’ Memorial program, Care for the Homeless volunteers served over 200 meals, gave out health information and “invitations” for people experiencing homelessness to visit CFH clinics for free medical care and human services, registered new voters and circulated a petition to Congress asking that no more cuts be made to safety net programs for poor or homeless people.

The program also featured entertainment including art, music by keyboardist Eustace Johnson and drummer Garrett McMahan, singing by the New Song Choir, David Broxton, Ava Connor and Rhonda Minosa, and poetry by Gayle Dorsky and Emily December.  Participants included Pastor Vincent Deas of New Song Church, Pastor Antoinettea Ettiene of Iris House, Iman Hakim Rasheed of BCI and Pastor Dan Snell of St. Mary’s Church.   

Learn more about Homeless Persons' Memorial Day in Jeff Foreman's column, originally published on December 19, 2013 in the Gotham Gazette. Read more.

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