FREMONT, Calif. - Homeless advocates gathered in Fremont on Monday for a candlelight vigil to honor nearly a hundred people who’ve died while experiencing homelessness this year. The event was organized by Abode Services, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to those without permanent housing.
The vigil was held at St. James Episcopal Church. People’s names were placed on a candleholder. All of them had been living on the streets when they died.
One by one, their names were read aloud. All of them had been receiving help from Abode Services over the last year and organizers say it’s important that their lives be remembered.
"Acknowledging the humanity of all people is incredibly critical and fighting to do whatever we can to never have another vigil like this, where 97 people’s names were read because they weren’t experiencing the safe secure housing that they need," said Katie Fantin, Program Manager for Abode Services.
Abode Services helps unhoused people in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Alameda Counties. They also partner with community groups like those at St. James Episcopal Church to provide food and other necessities.
"What we do is we collect furniture and food items for rehousing people. We also participate at the homeless shelter cooking meals. We collect things throughout the year like school supplies for the children, socks, warm coats," said Rev. Lori Walton, Pastor of St. James Episcopal Church in Fremont.
The interfaith ceremony included speakers who represented the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Rev. Walton says having to hold a vigil like this every year puts life into perspective and should make everyone count their blessings.
"If people mattered, then they shouldn’t be living on the street. Right? We are a country, a state and an area of abundance. We have enough. The problem is distribution. The problem is accessibility," Walton said.
With more cold weather on the way, Santa Clara County also announced that its cold weather shelter program will begin this week in Mountain View, expanding hours and providing up to 30 warm beds. Still, Fantin says we need to keep working towards getting permanent housing for those who need it.
"It’s really important to think through how to creatively house folks, how to provide less barriers for housing," Fantin said.