Homeless Memorial Day Vigil Held in Concord on the Longest Night of the Year

At a vigil held on State House Plaza in Concord, in the shadow of a giant Christmas tree, thirty-eight people held candles and sang in remembrance of thirteen homeless and formerly homeless people who died in New Hampshire 2010.  Other Homeless Memorial Day vigils took place in Keene, Lebanon, Laconia, Conway, Claremont, Manchester, and Nashua.  

“In the midst of the hope and the joy of this holiday season, we come together in sadness and grief because people live homeless in our community and it shortens their lives,” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee, who coordinated the annual program. 

“Whatever are the details of their individual stories, homelessness reminds us that we fail at times to take care of our own, to share sufficiently from the abundance we have been given,” she added.

Mark Barker, of Penacook, read the names of 13 people who died in the past year: Keith Cunningham, Esther D., Tom Davis, Bonnie Johnson, James McCord, Grace Messenger, Daniel Murphy, Paul Collette, Jr., Dan Norman, Kurt Smith, Paula Soucier, and Brian Theberge.  An additional 15 people who died in earlier years, but whose names had not been read at Homeless Memorial vigils, were also remembered. 

The Rev. David Keller, whose church houses an emergency shelter each winter, led singing of “Good King Wenceslaus” and “An American Noel,” a song that ties the Christmas story to the lives of homeless people in modern times.   

A proclamation from Gov. John Lynch was read by Maureen Ryan of the Office of Homeless and Housing.   “Last year more than 4956 people received shelter in a state-funded emergency shelter and more than 17 percent of them were children,” said the governor’s statement, which also referred to a single-night homeless census last January which counted 1335 people in shelters statewide.  

Homeless Memorial Day is observed nationwide on the night of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.   

Fogarty asked participants in the Concord vigil to inform elected officials about the importance of preserving the budget for the NH Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services, currently $3.5 million but likely to come under the scrutiny of budget cutters in the coming year.  She also called for restoring the annual $200,000 investment in the Homeless/Housing Access Revolving Loan Program.  

“Let our awareness and caring guide us in working to build a community in which there is adequate food and shelter for us all,” Fogarty read, in the closing litany.

“We will remember and we will do all we can to help our brothers and sisters who need us,” participants responded. 

Click here for a link to the Nashua Telegraph story about the Homeless Memorial Day observance in Nashua.  

Click here for a link to the Concord Monitor's front page photo of the Homeless Memorial Day observance in Concord.

More photos of the Concord vigil are on display on Arnie Alpert's blog, at InZaneTimes.