Over 500,000 people are without shelter each night, here in America. (More than a half-million!)
In memory of those who have died as a consequence of homelessness, cities across America observe National Homeless Persons Memorial Day on December 21, the day which has the shortest daylight hours.
The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, here in my greater Northern Kentucky community were among those who observed this event.
We met at Washington Park on this evening for a candlelight vigil and remembrance, naming each person lost.
A video recap, broken into three videos is at the end of this post. My friend, Tommy starts the Open Comments, singing his heart out. And when the camera zooms in on the last person during open comments–that’s me. So, for my heart-felt spoken thoughts on this terrible problem, see Video 3.
As for the raw and cold hard facts, here’s some awakening news:
Those of us who are securely settled in mainstream society, with an income, home, and family or other support network have it easy. We have resources to prevent problems and to fix difficulties. Whereas, those living in poverty, and especially homeless men, women, and children lack these resources.
Think about the last time you caught a miserable cold. For me, I bought cold medicine at the nearest drug store, and took sick time off from work, then snuggled into my warm house, cranking the heat a bit.
Then, my friend called me and said, “I hope you feel better, get some rest, and know I’m thinking of you.” At least I know my cold is only a cold and not something serious, because I recently had my preventive health check-up at the doctor’s office.
Think about the guy living on the cardboard box in downtown, or the family in a tent in the undeveloped land behind the mall. They have none of the privileges which I have. They are vulnerable to worsening health conditions, from a cold to the flu, infections, and contracting a contagious disease.
Substance abuse and alcoholism, mental illness, and post-traumatic stress (PTS) are additional factors, found predominately among homeless people because they lack access to resources and a support system of family or friends.
Aside from illness and disease, homeless people are at greater risk for other life threatening circumstances:
*Criminal behavior. Some homeless people resort to theft or robbery to get what they need. This puts them at risk of the victim fighting back, resulting in injury or death.
*Rape. Homeless people—and not only women—are vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual assault, leaving the victim physically and emotional traumatized.
*Violent crime. Reasons abound, not limited to intolerance, aggressiveness, and cruelty, which find some homeless people attacked, stabbed, shot, or beaten up.
*Extreme weather conditions. When without shelter, people are at a greater risk to succumb to hypothermia in overnight plummeting temperatures under a freezing snow fall. And are at risk to heat stroke and heart attacks when facing skyrocketing summer heat and humidity.
Many people die from illness, disease, injury, and violence, even though our country has resources which can save people from succumbing. Yet, to connect people to these resources involves awareness of the problem, preventive action, and community involvement.
*Contact nonprofit organizations in the community which raise awareness of homelessness and make a difference. Many have events and fundraisers to take part in.
*Volunteer where you can, from soup kitchens to shelters.
*Think of them when shopping. When you have a coupon for “buy one-get one free,” donate that freebie. When you buy your tube of toothpaste or package of socks, grab an extra one—donate these or hand it to a homeless person.
That toothpaste can help prevent tooth disease. Warm socks or gloves can make a life-or-death difference on a chilly night.
*Take a friend with you and walk the streets where homeless folks are prevalent. Talk to these people—get to know them as people—
and do what you can, whether it’s giving them a warm coat or clean dry socks, buying them a cup of coffee, letting them know where help is at, or offering to give them a ride to a free health clinic or a shelter.
Maybe, they need a bus ticket home to family—can you help? Listen to them, as each homeless person is an individual with individual needs. Offer help as they need it.
*Donate. Community organizations which help the homeless most often accept monetary gifts, food, clothing, and hygiene items.
Video Recap of vigil, held at Washington Park in Cincinnati on December 21, 2017 with the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Video courtesy of and retrieved from Scott Fantozzi.xxx