Councilwoman Blackwell Declares Dec. 21 ‘Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day’ at Candlelight Vigil

photo(66)Project H.O.M.E. and others held a candlelit vigil yesterday afternoon outside the Broad Street Ministry to remember the lives of homeless Philadelphians who’d died over the past year. The program featured music, dance, speeches and perhaps most humbling, the reading of more than 120 names of homeless or formerly homeless persons who’d lost their lives in 2011, including at least six veterans and 22 who died on the street or in an abandoned building.

December 21, the longest day of the year, has been designated as National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day by the National Coalition for the Homeless and is recognized in numerous cities across the country.

Among yesterday’s speakers was Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who presented what she called “our highest award” declaring December 21, 2011 ‘Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day’ in Philadelphia. She then presented the statement from Council, which reads as follows:

“Whereas, adequate housing is essential for healthy families and communities and individuals.

And whereas, housing has become increasing inaccessible because of rising costs and a shortage of affordable apartments and homes.

And whereas, nationwide, each year an estimated 3.5 million people experience homelessness with an estimated 14,450 homeless people in the state of Pennsylvania and 6,180 homeless people in the city of Philadelphia. That’s too many people.

And whereas, December 21 has been designated National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day by the National Coalition for the homeless and its so recognized by cities nationwide.

And whereas, in this season of generosity and sharing, citizens of Philadelphia are encouraged to commit themselves to promoting compassion and concern for all, especially for the poor and homeless.

And whereas, in remembering those who have died on the streets, the cause of ending homelessness is urgent as the city’s collective commitment to preventing such deaths in the future.

Therefore, by virtue of this citation, the Council of the City of Philadelphia does hereby designate and declare December 21, 2011 Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in recognition of people who have died on our streets in emergency shelters, transitional programs and hospitals, and in condemned or abandoned properties, from ailments and conditions directly related to homelessness. We at City Council extend our sincere respect and admiration for all of you who are here today and all of you who realize the struggle has to continue.”

Jannie Blackwell is known for often working on behalf of the poor and homeless. However, other Councilmembers have introduced legislation that is often denigrating to the city’s homeless population.

Early this summer, Councilman Frank DiCicco offered a bill which would have amended the city’s Sidewalk behavior regulations and, many said, allowed police to arrest members of the homeless population for the act of panhandling, or, you know, being homeless. He claimed he drafted the legislation on behalf of complaining businessowners. The bill was eventually amended after both protests and pressure.

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