Today is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Every year on December 21st since 1990, The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has sponsored National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness in our country and to remember our homeless brothers and sisters that passed away due to our nation’s failure to end homelessness.
December 21st is not only the first day of winter but it is also the longest night of the year for our brothers and sisters who are sleeping on the streets. It is a day that I reflect on the thousands of homeless individuals that passed away this year. I like to take a moment of silence and remember all of the men, women, and children who died this past year………
All of the homeless people that passed away this year had a connection to another human being, whether it was a sibling, teacher, husband, wife, co-worker or friend. It brings me sadness that every December 21st we have to come together to honor and pay tribute to the countless of homeless individuals that passed away. The folks that passed away were HUMAN BEINGS and it is such a national tragedy when our government is not building affordable housing and homeless people are dying on the streets. A nation that is so powerful like the United States and yet so powerless when it comes to respecting people’s human rights is clearly a social catastrophe.
Every day we are called to prevent a homeless person from “dying.” If we treat homeless people with RESPECT and DIGNITY, we are making them “LIVE” by acknowledging their presence. People die everyday of solitude. If we are able to shake people’s hands, have eye contact, call them by their first name, smile at them, pray for them, break bread with them, all of these gestures are saving homeless peoples’ lives every single day.
It is important that when we encounter homeless people, we do everything possible to make them FEEL at HOME. We make people FEEL at HOME by recognizing their presence and embracing them for who they are. When we call someone by their first name instead of homeless bum, we bring back dignity back into their lives. People are at HOME when they can see they are being respected and not judged at.
In my experience with homeless people, I have found that listening to their experience is one of the greatest gifts that i can give them. There is nothing more fulfilling than taking some time of your schedule to listen to someone’s story. Let us do our part so that homeless people don’t die of solitude. May we honor those that have passed away by continuing to fight for the human right to housing. No person should be forced to live and die in the streets. It is a tragedy when there are thousands of vacant and abandoned buildings in our cities and they are not being transformed to house the homeless in our communities.
This amazing illustration is by Ronnie Goodman