Solstice vigil honors lives lost in homeless community

Thank you to everyone who joined us on the Winter Solstice to honor the lives of the 51 people in Portland’s homeless community who died this year. Learn more at

Solstice vigil honors lives lost in homeless community
By Rachel Ohm, Portland Press Herald
On Tuesday night, the crowd lit candles and marched together to Monument Square, where they gathered around the city’s brightly lit Christmas tree to listen to a series of speakers.
Courtney Pladsen, clinical director at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, said she has been working in health care for homeless organizations for the last 11 years and she has lost more patients in the last 18 months than in all the previous years combined.
“We need people addressing the needs of the moment to provide food and belonging and shelter for people,” Pladsen said. “We need others to work towards creating better systems. We need people with lived experience leading our work… Tonight I encourage you to acknowledge our collective grief. Share stories of those we lost. Say their names. Tomorrow, we will get back to our work and hope and dream and work towards building a community in which we no longer need a homeless persons’ memorial day.”
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A vigil held to remember the 51 lives lost to homelessness in Portland this year
By Megan Willgoos, WGME

“Dee Clark previously passed away,” Homeless Advocate Amanda Comeau said. “The hardest part was the unknown.”

The unknown of what would happen without her — who would be the voice that people needed.

“While I was wondering these questions, I didn’t realize that she was already showing me all the while and giving me the skills and tools to use to move forward,” Comeau said.
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Vigil held for 51 people who died in Portland’s streets in 2021
By James Corrigan, WMTW

“It’s heartbreaking for me, for so many of us who know and care about people who are struggling with homelessness,” said Preble Street Deputy Director Donna Yellen, speaking to the number of deaths this year. “The people that we get to meet through this walk of life are absolutely wonderful. They all have amazing stories. They’re all loved by friends and family, and they love in return.”

“It is a tragedy that we don’t honor people more in their living,” Yellen said. “And so it is all the more important that we honor them in their death, that we say their names, that we remember them as our neighbor, as someone from our community who was cared about, even though they lived in homelessness.”
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Commentary: Grief for our unhoused neighbors will fuel my fight to end homelessness
By Courtney Pladsen, Special to the Press Herald

Tuesday evening marked the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year, and the longest night of homelessness for our unhoused neighbors. Every year on the winter solstice, community partners – including the Portland Health and Human Services Department, Greater Portland Health, Maine Medical Center, Northern Light Mercy Hospital and Preble Street – host a vigil to mourn the lives that were cut short, and to reaffirm a commitment to ensuring that everyone who needs a home finds one.

In Portland, 51 people who experienced homelessness in their lifetime died over the last year. These lives didn’t have to end as soon as they did. The life expectancy of people who endure homelessness is 28 years shorter, on average, than that of people who remain housed. I have worked in health care for homeless health centers for the past 10 years, and I’ve lost more patients in the last 18 months than I have in all the previous years combined.
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