By Karen Dandurant
PORTSMOUTH — In accordance with Homeless Memorial Vigils happening all over the state and the country, five names were read in Market Square Friday night commemorating homeless people known to have died during 2019.
The vigil takes place as close as possible to the night of the winter solstice because that is the night with the longest hours of darkness. Martha Stone, director of Cross Roads House said the event in Market Square is one of 13 planned throughout the state.
“Sixty-four names will be read of people who passed away this year,” said Stone. “We recognize there are likely more than 64 people but for privacy reasons, we do not always get the names.”
Five candles were lit for the five people remembered, with a brief description of who they were. A sixth was lit for those who remain unknown.
Warner, 56, was raised in a marine corps family and had lived around the world, according to organizers. He was a marine, an athlete and he loved animals and his family.
John, 62, was known as a quiet man. He lived in Portsmouth his entire life and served in the Navy during the Vietnam war.
Michael, aka Bubba, 57, was a lifelong musician, singer, songwriter and bass player. He was considered a great friend who enjoyed music, movies, golf and a good cigar.
Bill, 36, struggled with mental illness. He reportedly died tragically after seeking shelter in a dumpster.
Francis, 54, worked at many jobs, but loved commercial fishing and sales, according to organizers. He hiked the Appalachian Trail. He was an artist and studied with John Laurent of Ogunquit and in Paris.
In his last official act, Mayor, Jack Blalock , who did not seek re-election, spoke of the close relationship the city has with Cross Roads House.
“I truly love that we do this,” said Blalock. “This is a welcoming city and we are proud of our partnership with Cross Roads House. This will not be my last vigil. I will be here next year, as just Jack.”
Stone said the need for housing is great and they try to meet it.
“Last night we had 123 people there,” said Stone. “The night before it was 127. That includes 27 children and we are expecting a family with three more children. The media tends to write about homelessness when it’s cold out, but come in August. We are just as full.”
Representatives from Families First, and Seacoast Mental Health Center were there, as they work with the same populations that find their way to Cross Roads House.
A proclamation from Governor Chris Sununu was read in the square and will be read at the other state locations. The governor spoke of the humanity of the homeless and the need to honor them with the respect they deserve as citizens of the state.
Reverend Katie Moody, an Interfaith Minister, finished the vigil with a blessing.
“We remember and celebrate the men and women who have departed,” said Moody. “They are called the homeless, labeled by the one thing they may have had for a moment of their life. But each is as unique as the footprint they left in this world.”