BANGOR, Maine — Kathy Carter was homeless for 2½ years.
“It’s not something a normal person aspires to be,” she told the more than 100 people gathered Thursday night at Hammond Street Congregational Church for the city’s sixth annual Homeless Memorial Day. “I was very embarrassed and ashamed of it.”
A short service at which she and others who have been homeless spoke was held after the group walked from the Greater Bangor Area Shelter on Main and Cedar streets to the church. The event is held on the Winter Solstice to remember homeless and formerly homeless Bangor residents who died in 2010 and to call for an end to homelessness.
Carter said that with therapy and help offered by area agencies that aid the homeless, she was braver and stronger. She also was able to ask for help.
“I went to the bike auction, asked for a sponsor and someone bought me a bike,” she told group. “I’ll never forget those nice people.”
Although she is no longer homeless, Carter urged others to be just as bold.
“Just ask and you shall receive,” she said.
Chris Haywood, who now works as a cook at a Bangor nursing home, said he was homeless from Memorial Day to Oct. 1, 2010. He credited the staff at the Bangor shelter for helping him.
“I owe them my life,” he said. “I was so angry. They got me medical care and counseling. I’m at a loss for words as to how to thank them.”
He urged everyone in the church to give back to the homeless so that no one else dies as a result of not having shelter.
“We believe approximately six people experiencing homelessness or who had experienced homelessness died within the past year,” Dennis Marble, director of the Bangor shelter, said in a press release announcing the event. “We want to acknowledge and convey that this is only an estimate and that there may well be additional people who have died on the streets of Bangor this year.”
According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the homeless are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than their housed counterparts.
“Some of the homeless who died may not be included as it is difficult to gain information on all who died,” Ann Giggey, program director for Hope House, said in the press release. “Some may have been overlooked — a sad reality of homelessness — while some may have names that were unknown.”
Bangor’s annual Homeless Memorial Day was one of more than 100 nationwide. Local organizations that collaborated on this event were Hope House Homeless Shelter, Hammond Street Congregational Church, the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Shaw House, Spruce Run, the City of Bangor, Community Health and Counseling and the Bangor Police Department.