BANGOR, Maine — During the last 10 years, more than 50 local people have died while homeless, six of them in the last year alone.
On Sunday, they will be remembered during a candlelight walk and memorial service in commemoration of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, an event observed nationally each Dec. 21 because that it the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.
The Bangor commemoration, now in its third year, is among more than 100 taking place nationwide.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 744,313 people experienced homelessness in the United States in January 2005. Of those, 23 percent were reported as chronically homeless.
Homelessness remains a significant problem in Bangor, where on any given night an estimated 1,000 people, many of them families with young children, are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless, according to a news release from Penobscot Community Health Care.
Homeless people are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than their housed counterparts. Many are the targets of hate crimes and others have chronic health problems worsened by exposure to bitter winter weather, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
The memorial in Bangor is being organized by PCHC in partnership with its Summer Street Community Clinic, Hammond Street Congregational Church, the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Community Health and Counseling Services, the Acadia Recovery Community, and the Eastern Maine Peace and Justice Center.
“Holding this remembrance service is important in raising awareness and honoring those who have died, many due to health problems compounded by homelessness,” Mary Jude, director of homeless initiatives for PCHC, said in a news release announcing the event. “As a compassionate society, these are issues we cannot afford to ignore — people’s lives are at stake.”
Mike Andrick, former program manager at the homeless shelter and now a licensed counselor at the Summer Street clinic, agreed.
“To provide services to the homeless is not an act of mercy, but an act of justice,” he said.
Those who are interested in participating in the service should meet at 5:30 p.m. at the homeless shelter at 263 Main St.
The group will leave at 5:45 p.m. for a candlelight walk to Hammond Street Congregational Church at 28 High St., where a memorial service will take place, followed by fellowship and refreshments. Those unable to participate in the walk may meet at the church at 6 p.m.