Sunday, December 23, 2018

Central Florida Homeless Person's Memorial

1 of 5 Print SOLD
I went to a Central Florida homeless person's memorial service at St. James Catholic Cathedral (215 N Orange Ave, Orlando, Florida 32801) which recognized the lives of persons who died this year in Central Florida after having experienced homelessness. During the service, the names of homeless persons who died in 2018 were be read aloud, and a candle was be lit to recognize and pay tribute to our neighbors who died on the streets or in emergency shelters.

The service began with a hymn and a few words from a pastor. Then the 81 names were slowly read with a bell sounding after each name. It reminded me of the bells being rung for the 49 lives lost a Pulse at the Vigil at the Dr Phillips Center. At that time 49 names seemed to take an eternity to read. 81 names take an even longer. It is sobering that so many lives are taken due to homelessness. Suicide, the elements and a lack of medical care all take their toll. 

People who knew the deceased then stood to have a candle lit and they held that candle as they stood at the front of those gathered. The stage grew crowded as people stood shoulder to shoulder with their candles a glow.  Then people were invited to say a few words about the people they had lost. One woman spoke about a homeless man who fell in love with her. He said he would win her heart and someday she would come homeless with him. She did indeed fall in love with him. She knew what a tortured soul he was and she felt he might have finally found peace. I got choked up listening to her. Her grief was overwhelming. Another man bedded down for the night in a friends driveway and in the morning, that friend accidentally backed up over him with his car.

Some on the list had been granted dignity by getting a roof over their heads.  A volunteer spoke about how a homeless man began sleeping in his neighborhood and the neighbors, knowing her worked with homelessness asked him to talk to the man. "Why don't you talk to him? He doesn't bite." They wanted the man removed, but over time they began to offer him food and showers. When he moved on, another person took his place.

A volunteer from IDignity spoke about how important it is to give someone back their identity by recovering important documents. They host a monthly identification clinic where people can receive free assistance obtaining identification documents. Only with an identity can you start life over.

Homelessness is a real problem here in Central Florida. It is important to treat people going through tough times with respect and dignity. Embrace every one of your neighbors with curiosity and an open heart. As I left the service, it was encouraging to see several police officers at the back of the congregation. They get to interact with homeless individuals more than anyone else.

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