It was vigil to remember many of those who have been forgotten. On Thursday evening, people stood silently outside the First Congregational Church of Stamford in memory of those who have died homeless.
“This vigil happens annually and it’s a national event so all over the country on usually the 21rst, the longest day of the year, is when it’s held,” says Kate Heichler of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern CT.
The memorial service is put on by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern CT and local agencies serving the homeless. Organizers say it’s important to raise awareness about this growing problem.
“We’re a very rich town and so we don’t talk about homelessness because that has a stigma to it, so I think it’s important to have this so that we know exactly what we’re dealing with and how we can help,” says Maggie Young, Director of residential Services at Liberation Programs.
“We have a huge homeless problem here in Stamford,” says Jason Shaplen, CEO at Inspirica. “You don’t quite see it yet because of what the organizations are doing but it’s there.”
Shaplen says there has been a 45% increase in homelessness in Stamford alone just in the last year.
“We’ve had more than double the number of families living on the streets and in the last two years, the number of people living on the street has almost tripled,” Shaplen says.
“In our community, 7 people died last year or were in shelters or part of the homeless population,” Heichler says.
Those seven people were honored at Thursday’s memorial service with the lighting of seven candles.
“There were at least two of those names that were on the list who had come through our programs,” says Young.
“They come from all walks of life,” Shaplen says. “Some people are mentally ill, some people are recovering from substance abuse, but increasingly we’re also seeing people who are economically homeless; people who are homeless without any other overriding factor than the economy and their financial condition, and that’s not surprising. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the country.”