Memorial service for the homeless to be held on Thursday

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council have designated December 21, the longest night of the year, as National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. The day is set aside to remember those who have died during the year while unhoused, unsheltered, living in shelters, transitional housing, or uninhabitable places and spaces, without a place to call home. This year the Open Door Community Center, aka, Open Door Women Shelter in Washington, will join thousands of others across the country, as it hosts a memorial service. Guest speakers will include Chief of Police, Phil Rollinson, the executive director of the Open Door Women Shelter, Laurie Stewart, the centers’ board president, Sally Love, volunteer Mary Hess, and Leesa Jones, director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, and co-organizer of the event. “We will take this time to remember the homeless who have lost their lives across the country this year, which numbers in the thousands,” said Stewart. “We will also equip our visitors with printed cards that they can share with the homeless they may encounter, which provides information about local shelters, food pantries, and emergency hotlines. And even though there have been no reported cases of homeless deaths in Washington this year, we want to do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. There will also be a candlelight vigil at the end, where guests can carry a lit candle out into the night.”

Stewart added an event such as this helps to educate the public and bring about increased awareness to the issue of homelessness in Washington and elsewhere. “When we see a person sitting next to a building or begging on some corner, we tend to come up with all sorts of reasons for why they are doing it,” said Stewart. “It is important to help people understand that this could be any one of us, as all it takes is one major life catastrophe. We may never know what their situation is, but it is an opportunity to give them a hand up, rather than a handout, as we don’t want to enable the homeless, but to empower them, and come alongside them. We are all part of this community, and we need to be educated on how best to take care of one another.”

The service will be held Thursday evening, Dec. 21 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the First Christian Church at 307 E. 3rd Street. The service is free and open to the public.