Portland holds vigil for homeless who've died

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — People in Portland gathered Monday night to remember members of the city’s homeless community who died in 2015. Forty three people passed away. That number includes people who were homeless when they died, and others who were recently homeless in the Greater Portland area.

A large group of homeless people, people who work to help them and city officials walked up Preble Street to Monument Square.

Preble Street’s director spoke at the vigil, calling for better policies to help the homeless. He said that should include access to housing, but also access to healthcare and treatment for addiction.

Denise Parham, a homeless woman in recovery from heroin addiction, paid tribute to some of her friends who died in 2015.

A candle was lit for each of the 43 people who passed away. Preble Street officials said 20 people died in 2013 and 35 people in 2014. This year’s number is higher than any other year in the 21 years Preble Street has organized this vigil.

“This is a really frightening trend,” Donna Yellen, chief program officer at Preble Street, said. “It’s a reminder to us that homelessness is dangerous, that it is deadly and that people’s lives are at risk when they’re forced to live on the street.”