December 21st, the shortest day of the year, with the longest night of the year, is Homeless Memorial Day.
This day throughout the country homeless people who have died will be remembered.
These are often the invisible people in our community. Usually the homeless we see on the streets are just a fraction of the homeless in a community.Some have become homeless because of their own choices; most because of situations that have overtaken their lives from which they have difficulty recovering (addictions, domestic violence, mental illness, lack of affordable housing, loss of a job).
For some, reducing and preventing homelessness is not just a good thing to do, it is actually a moral obligation. Those who have, and who have in abundance have a obligation to care for those less fortunate. The Bible links care for the poor with the reminder that God has cared for us in dramatic ways: I am the Lord your God who rescued you from slavery in Egypt…therefore, attend to the poor, the widow, the alien.
In Simi Valley where I live…a nice suburb north of Los Angeles, three homeless people died this year. One died at a local winter shelter site, one died in pickup truck in a driveway, one died in a dumpster—all three called Simi Valley home.
Each one struggled with significant issues that made them homeless and kept them homeless
They are some of the invisible people–here is a part of their story
Kevin was a long time resident of Simi Valley and used the services of the Samaritan Center (local homeless service center) on a fairly regular basis. Through all his inner struggles he still managed to break into a smile and laugh about things. He had several close friends at the center and offered to help where he could. He was in a very peaceful state the week that he passed.
Mike was also a long time resident of Simi Valley. He had many friends and was always one to talk with other clients that were in at state of unrest. There were several clients that commented on his ability to calm them and show them that some of the things that upset them weren’t worth being upset over. He was always willing to help at the center when asked.
Jim was a long time client at the Samaritan center. He fought many inner issues over the years, but was making progress in putting them behind him. He made changes that got him off the streets the latter part of his life. He talked about his desires to see his son find a way out of the life on the streets.
Peace to their memory
Those of us who have…and most of us have alot, and often more, so much more than enough…have an obligation to give to others.
Our goal in Simi Valley is to be a community that works together–faith communities, city and county government, local businesses, non-profits–in order to reduce and prevent homelessness. We have moved beyond simply maintaining homelessness. We want to reduce it and prevent it.
On the day with the longest night–consider how you might work to end homeless in your community.