The Winter Solstice is the darkest day of the year. The day of the year with the fewest hours of day light and the longest night of the year. It is also the day we mark National Homeless Memorial Day in recognition of all who passed away while homeless.
Today, I will join friends and colleagues on the Boston Common, alongside men and women who are currently living on the street or in shelters and with those who once lived homeless. Together we will listen as the names of those who have died while homeless are read aloud. We will remember their smiles, their pains, celebrate their lives and grieve that they did not live long enough to find a way home.
Across the country vigils like this will be held as thousands gather refusing to allow their deaths go unnoticed. We will decry the failure of our society to ensure that all people have the protection of a home. And we will commit ourselves to ensuring the dawn of a new day when we can finally end homelessness.
I will silently pray for my friend Jane (not her real name) who struggles to survive every night on the street. She sleeps in the dark corners of the city and comes to St. Francis House in the morning to take a shower, get a clean change of clothes and eat a hot meal. She is sick and tired but she is not without hope. Yesterday she showed me a picture of her daughter and told me she longs for the day they can be together. I pray that her name will not be read at next year’s vigil.
And I will remember Jimmy who spent years sleeping on the street. His last winter homeless he spent every night covered by a blue tarp in front of St. Francis House waiting for the break of day and for our doors to open.
Every morning as the sun rises I watch hundreds of men and women arrive carrying their bags, pulling broken suitcases, some clutching the blanket they wrapped around themselves the night before, others come in wheelchairs or on crutches, some are sick with cancer, some sick with addiction. All need and deserve the peace, comfort and safety of a home.
This has been a dark difficult year for all of us. Lives and livelihoods have been disrupted and lost. We have all felt the fear and anxiety of the spread of the corona virus that has threatened the health and lives of everyone. Without the protection of a home, our homeless brothers and sisters were and still are especially vulnerable.
Many things have changed these past several months as we adapted to the new realities of COVID. But after a long cold night, St. Francis House is still a welcoming place of refuge. Our doors have remained open throughout the pandemic. Every day we welcome our guests, provide nourishing meals, warm clothes, and with love that has no conditions we create pathways out of homelessness through finding recovery, employment and a home.
Tomorrow the days will start to get a bit longer and there will be more light than darkness. And where there is light there is hope. Hope that for all the guests of St. Francis House tomorrow will not just be the dawn of a new day but of a new life.
Thank you for all your support,
President and CEO
St. Francis House