Thursday, December 20, 2007

Homeless Persons' Memorial Day: Dec. 21

Local Activist Groups to
Hold Homeless Persons
Memorial Day Observance

Dec. 20, 2007

For immediate release

Local Contact:
Ben Markeson
407.252.1379 (cell)

National Contact:
Michael Stoops
National Coalition for the Homeless,
Washington, D.C.
202.462.4822 x19

ORLANDO--A commemoration of Homeless Persons' Memorial Day will be held Friday, Dec. 21, 7 p.m., in front of Orlando City Hall. The purpose is to honor the memory of homeless people who have died in our community during the preceding 12 months. The event will consist of a candlelight vigil, a reading of the names of our community's deceased homeless, speakers--local clergy and activists--and a "speak-out" segment during which the homeless can talk about their deceased compatriots and about what it's like to be a homeless person in the Orlando area.

This event is being sponsored by Orlando Food Not Bombs, S.T.O.P.--Stop the Ordinance Partnership, the Young Communist League (Orlando chapter) and the Orlando Progressive Alliance. In addition, the congregation of the First Vagabonds Church of God, a local homeless ministry, will attend the City Hall commemoration following their own National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day event in the Lake Lucerne neighborhood at 6 p.m.

The groups also will distribute clothing, blankets, personal hygiene items--toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.--and food to the homeless during the event. They have either gotten the items donated from within the community or have used their own resources to purchase them.

This commemoration is being held at Orlando City Hall to remind the public and local government that the homeless are citizens and members of the community and are entitled to be treated with dignity and to have their civil rights respected. The organizers also wish to remind City officials that their punitive policies towards the homeless--such as a ban on sharing food with the homeless in public parks downtown, restrictions on panhandling and regular harassment by Orlando police--criminalize homelessness but do nothing to address its underlying causes and only serve to make life more difficult for our community's homeless population.

The organizers hope their event will highlight the City of Orlando's misplaced priorities, such as spending more than a billion dollars on sports and entertainment venues while failing to direct sufficient resources towards addressing the problems and underlying causes of homelessness in our community. These include a chronic shortgage of shelter beds for our area's homeless population, inadequate treatment options for homeless individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction and mental illness, failure to ensure that jobs pay living wages and to address the lack of affordable housing in our community, and the delay in establishing a homeless drop-in center, a "one-stop shop" where the homeless could obtain the help and resources they need to get off the streets permanently.

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day has occurred on the first day of winter, December 21, since 1990. The event is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the National Consumer Advisory Board, and local groups nationwide. It is intended to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness, and to remember our homeless friends who have paid the ultimate price for our nation’s failure, at all levels, to address the issue.