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Communities, including Concord, remembering homeless deaths

A group of communities is holding candlelight vigils to remember homeless people who have died.

The Americans Friends Service Committee has listed at least 34 homelessness-related deaths in the state this year.

The names of those who died were read at events in Nashua and Portsmouth last night and in Concord, Laconia, Newport, Manchester and Keene tonight.

An event also is being held in White River Junction, Vt., tonight, at the lawn of the Upper Valley Haven. Coats and blankets will be collected.

The events are part of what’s being called “Homeless Memorial Day.”

“The longest night of the year, which also marks the official beginning of winter, is an appropriate time to remember the lives of our sisters and brothers whose deaths were in some way related to the fact that they did not have secure housing,” said Maggie Fogarty, coordinator of the committee’s New Hampshire Economic Justice Project.

In a proclamation issued for the event, Gov. John Lynch urged everyone to “work together to provide those in need in our community with access to a safe, warm place to stay.”

The event at the common in Newport is being followed by a soup and bread supper at a local church and a service. Church bells will ring for five minutes at the start of the Keene event, followed by singing and a procession to a shelter.

The events were announced as the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness released its inaugural report for the state yesterday, looking at data from 2009 through 2012.

The report estimates the state’s homeless population this year is about 1,725. The report says after increasing by 11 percent between 2010 and 2011 the homeless population decreased about 4 percent. But the data indicate an increase in homeless in subpopulations such as families.

The report said based on the state’s “point-in-time” count for 2011, the rate of homelessness in New Hampshire was 13 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. That’s slightly lower than the national rate of 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population.

A majority of homeless people counted during the 2012 count were in emergency shelters or transitional housing shelters, but more than one in five were living in cars, abandoned buildings, tents or other places not intended for human habitation.

The coalition’s report also looked at various economic indicators that affect people who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless. Data indicate that conditions worsened among housing costs, average income of working poor and foreclosures.

The report said the number of households in poverty that are “severely housing cost burdened,” meaning that they spent more than 50 percent of their income on rent, increased from 65 percent in 2009 to just more than 68.3 percent in 2010.

“Although New Hampshire is commonly portrayed in the national media to be untouched by the recession and its consequences, much of the data highlighted in this report suggest that New Hampshire Citizens also struggle to maintain economic stability during these challenging times,” the report said.

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