On Dec. 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, the public is invited to honor the memory of those who died in 2020 while homeless. The candlelight vigil and name-reading ceremony is held annually, but this year, due to COVID-19, the memorial will take place online, and attendees are encouraged to pay tribute virtually.
Holding the event on the winter solstice is meant to highlight the rough winter conditions vulnerable residents experience. This year, 15 people will be remembered.
"We hold the 15 lives lost this year in our hearts," said Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Vickie Adamson. “They were brothers, fathers, sons and friends. With this memorial service, we acknowledge the value and meaning of their lives while also drawing attention to the need for greater access to housing and services, so this list of names will be shorter in the years to come.”
The 2020 memorial video can be found here, and residents are encouraged to come together virtually at 7 p.m. on Dec. 21 to watch it.
Compared to the general population, those who experience homelessness are more likely to suffer from chronic disease, mental illness, substance abuse and violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are more than 700 people currently in homeless shelters across Wake County, the majority of whom are African American.
The memorial event has been hosted at the South Wilmington Street Center since 2004 and coincides with National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, which is observed on the same day.
Wake County residents who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are encouraged to reach out to the House Wake! Access Hub. This hub is the centralized intake and referral portal for Wake County residents and can connect those in need to agencies providing services such as emergency shelter, homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing.