Merced event to honor deceased homeless people

12/18/2013 8:04 PM

12/18/2013 8:05 PM

Friends, family and advocates this week will honor homeless people of Merced County who died during the year.

Golden Valley Health Centers and the D Street Shelter plan Homeless Persons Memorial Day from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday at the shelter, 317 East 15th St.

“It’s mainly a vigil to remember those homeless individuals that have passed away throughout the year and basically didn’t have anybody to remember them or honor them,” said Juan Villa, Golden Valley’s homeless program coordinator.

According to Villa, seven homeless people have died during the year in Merced County.

Organizers are hoping the memorial will attract homeless and formerly homeless people, advocates, service providers, city officials and residents from the community.

Villa said last year’s memorial, the first of its kind in the county, attracted 50 to 60 people. He has organized several vigils in Stanislaus County. Participants in the vigils typically gather, read the names of the deceased and light candles, he said.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has sponsored such memorials since 1990, and observance take place annually in more than 150 cities and counties across the country. The memorials are typically planned on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

Villa said there has been a high level of support from Merced County volunteers.

“This year we have gotten a bigger response from the community, and hopefully each year the community is able to participate more,” he said.

Pastries, hot chocolate, care packages and a limited number of coats will be given away during the event, according to organizers.

Golden Valley has a mobile clinic for the homeless stationed in the D Street Shelter’s parking lot. It provides health care for the homeless from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

For more information, call Villa at (209) 761-8775 or send an email to jvilla@gvhc.org.

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