Forgotten in life, Northwest suburban homeless remembered in death
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Amid the hustle and bustle of last minute holiday preparations, a poignant memorial service took place Tuesday reminding the community of the plight of the homeless during the winter months.
Staff members, volunteers and clients of Journeys from PADS to Hope, came together to hold a memorial service for homeless persons who have died this year.
The agency provides supportive services and emergency shelter to nearly 900 homeless and at-risk individuals and families annually.
"We've held a memorial service for years, but we just started opening it up to the community three years ago," said Beth Nabors, executive director. "We want the community to know about the plight of the homeless in the Northwest suburbs, and to realize that there are people who are dying alone."
The candlelight service at the center had prayers, readings and reflections about the four persons they could confirm who have passed away over the last year.
"This act is bittersweet," said Sr. JoAnne Grib, a volunteer at the center. "Their lives were hard, as the lives of all homeless are hard. But never more will they be hungry, thirsty or cold. Now, they're finally home."
Bill Dayiantis offered remembrances of his mother and her friend, who died within months of each other. A former Elk Grove Village resident, Dayiantis was a caregiver of both, but now has fallen on hard times.
"I'm sad they're gone, but I know that now I have two more angels up in heaven," Dayiantis said. "With their help, and with your help, I'll make it through this little struggle."
Another client offered a tearful tribute to "Gwen," a homeless woman who had committed suicide during the last year.
"I was with her that day, if only I had known," the man, who spoke anonymously, said. "She's gone now and I think she's in a better place."
Officials with the resource center hold the service each year on the day of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, and by extension, the longest night of the year.
"The homeless are always more vulnerable at night; they are colder and are at more risk of violence," said staff member Lindsay Rosales, who opened the service.
"But we can take solace that the light and warmth will return."
The service remembered those who had died, as well as those the center has served but have lost touch with over the last year.
"We always light one more candle for them," said Beth Nabors, executive director. "That one candle could represent 10-15 more people. The only way we find out they've died, is if the police tell us."
Bill Decker, a Journeys staff member, closed the service with a prayer for the living, who shared in the memorial tribute.
"We pray that the light and hope will enter your lives," he said, "and will help you during this cold time of the year."
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