In Dusk and Drizzle, a Long List of Names
Lebanon — A week ago, the list looked long enough to Angel Hudson — 29 people in New Hampshire, in alphabetical order by last name — or in 15 cases, last initial only — who died homeless in 2013.
Then last Tuesday, Claremont police found the body of a 49-year-old man in the snow near his campsite off Maple Avenue. And Hudson, an outreach worker with the Lebanon office of the Tri-County Community Action Program, wearily typed the 30th at the bottom of the third page of names, for recitation Saturday night at Tri-County CAP’s 24th annual candlelight vigil for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.
In a steady drizzle on the front lawn of the First Congregational Church in downtown Lebanon, Bev McKinley, founder of the Silent Warriors program for the homeless, read the first 19 names — among them Diana D, a mother of four who moved into her own home two weeks before dying of cancer — to the gathering of 14 people, then handed the list to Rosemary Affeldt, of Enfield.
After reading the name of Donna Whittington, who “died in November after a long illness,” Affeldt concluded with the name of Matthew Harriman, the man who died in Claremont last week.
And across the street in Colburn Park, a crow cawed. And cawed again.
“It’s always hard,” Hudson said, “after we hear all those names.” Harder still in the cold and damp and dark, which is why the National Coalition for the Homeless started encouraging social service agencies and other advocates to hold vigils on the longest night of the year. According to the American Friends Service Committee, 34 people died homeless in New Hampshire in 2012.
In the flickering light of about half a dozen candles Saturday night, and with a little help from neighbors with flashlights, retired Tri-County CAP outreach worker Joie Finley Morris read a Homeless Memorial Day proclamation from New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan. The proclamation observes that during fiscal year 2012, state-funded emergency shelters took in 4,825 people — 17.5 percent of them children.
The proclamation adds that one particularly cold night last January, “2,576 New Hampshire residents were homeless, in shelters, unsheltered, or temporarily residing with family or friends.”
While The Upper Valley Haven houses eight families and 24 single adults at a time at its shelter complex in White River Junction, it often asks agencies such as Tri-County CAP for help housing those they can’t take in, Finley Morris said.
“Tri-County has tried very hard for many years to make sure that nobody freezes,” Finley Morris continued, noting that many area communities “rotate churches” at which to send homeless people for a night of relief from the elements.
If the agency can raise $15,000 in donations supporting temporary stays at motels with which CAP has “quiet contracts,” Finley Morris said, Dorothy Byrne of the Byrne Foundation will match the total. More information is available by calling 603-443-6100 or sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The sooner the better,” Finley Morris said. “(Byrne) does have a deadline.”
David Corriveau can be reached at 603-727-3304.