Community to gather at State House Plaza on Thursday to honor homeless lost in 2019

Monitor staff
Published: 12/18/2019 3:20:03 PM

Community members will gather with candles in hand at the State House Plaza on Thursday afternoon to honor the state’s homeless who lost their lives this year.

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is honored nationwide, usually on the longest night of the year, the winter solstice. In Concord, the day will be honored two days early on Thursday at 4 p.m.

“It is a special time, in the midst of the holiday rush and bustle, when we pause and come together in a reverent way to honor the lives lost and the human cost of homelessness to our community,” the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness shared in a press release. “For some, this is the funeral and closure they never got for their loved one.”

The program will include a reading of the names of those lost, the lighting of candles and music. Rise Again Outreach will be present to collect any donations of warm winter outerwear and boots, winter socks, blankets, hand warmers, toe warmers and batteries, for those in need.

The Concord Coalition to End Homelessness opened its homeless shelter for its second season Dec. 16.

The overall number of people experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire is dropping, though four of the state’s 10 counties saw increases in recent years, according to a report released Wednesday by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness.

The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness draws on state and federal data for its annual report. Its comparison of the annual “point in time” counts show the overall number of people experiencing homelessness decreased by 5% to 1,382 from January 2017 to January 2019, but the numbers went up in Carroll, Cheshire Coos and Hillsborough counties. And while the number of families and veterans experiencing homelessness decreased, the number of homeless students increased by 12% to 3,993.

The report also includes data about challenges in accessing affordable housing. Rents have increased by more than 7% from 2017 to 2019, and vacancy rates have decreased to less than 1% in half of the 10 counties.

“A housing market characterized by increased rents and extremely low vacancy rates makes it challenging for anyone to access affordable rental housing, and is particularly difficult for those with the lowest incomes who may face other disadvantages that may hinder housing stability,” Cathy Kuhn, the coalition’s director, said in a statement.

The state budget passed in October, however, included some of the most significant investments in housing and homeless services in a decade. The budget included money for services such as eviction prevention and youth outreach, plus $10 million for the state’s Affordable Housing Fund. It also allows for the creation of a Medicaid benefit for supportive housing services.

“Taken together, these investments in housing and services represent a significant turning point in the state’s recognition and response to the challenges of homelessness and housing affordability,” she said.

This year, Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day vigil in Concord is sponsored by 22 organizations and faith communities: the American Friends Service Committee, the Baha’i Faith of Concord, Bow Mills United Methodist Church, CenterPoint Church, Community Action Program, Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, Concordia Lutheran Church, Families in Transition, First Church of Concord UCC, Family Promise of Grea ter Concord, The Friends Program, The Friendly Kitchen, Greater Concord Interfaith Council, The N.H. Coalition to End Homelessness, N.H. Peace Action, The Poor People’s Campaign, Rise Again Outreach, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, South Church UCC, Temple Beth Jacob, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Concord, and Wesley United Methodist Church.

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