Hampton community holds annual vigil for the homeless

Community

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — On the longest night of the year, a community gathered to honor those who spend every night without a home.

19, that’s the number of people who died while homeless on the Peninsula this year.

At least one of them remains Nameless, as no one has been able to identify her.

This is an annual event that happens nationwide.

But the people 10 On Your Side spoke with say it never gets easier, and this year the number of people they’re remembering doubled.

“Last year we only had seven names. This year we had 19, and when you hear that list of names, the length, it really sets in that people that died that they were people,” said Brother Tim Luken, an Anglican priest who oversaw the ceremony.

The 19 shoes on display at the Ivy Memorial Baptist Church represented 19 people who died as a result of being in a homeless situation.

“We asked the police department because the police department reports deaths, deceased people found in the woods or an alleyway, and so we asked the city and the city worked with us and the police department gave us four names of homeless,” Luken said.

One of which was a man named Norman in his late 20s.

“He was always cutting up, he was always full of laughter,” explained Luken, who worked with him often.

“With Norman, I wondered could I have done something, did I do something wrong? What could I have done?” he said.

Syretta Williams, chair of the SCAN committee, said goodbye to a man named Mark.

“He was an older gentleman, he also had a walker when I said hi he said hi, he always carried a big bag of medications,” she remembered.

Syretta, who works with the homeless community, attends this event every year. It’s emotional for her.

“It makes me feel very sad. I have a huge family and I couldn’t imagine dying alone with nobody being there,” she said.

Luken says that’s not even the worst thought.

“I think that there is probably a mom or a dad or a brother or sister sitting at home on the holidays wanting to know where their brother or sister or son or daughter is, praying that they are OK, and they don’t know,” he said.

It’s a long night every night for the homeless, but their hope is the sun will come out sooner rather than not at all.

“I hope and pray that next year that there will be no shoes out here,” Syretta said.

Organizers say the message they want to get across is that anyone is one paycheck, or injury, or other problem away from being in the same situation.

So they encourage everyone to love their neighbor and look out for each other.

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