Vigil remembers homeless people who didn't survive life on streets Baltimore, 70 cities hold memorial for dead

December 22, 1998|By Rasmi Simhan | Rasmi Simhan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

As Timothy Shands lighted a candle yesterday at the ninth annual Homeless Person's Memorial Day vigil, he thought of the possibility that he, too, could have died on Baltimore's streets.

"My name would've been on the list of people to remember if it wasn't for Health Care for the Homeless," Shands said.

Shands was among 20 others at Charles Plaza who honored the 21 homeless people who died this year in Baltimore. Those attending talked of their experiences with homelessness and joined in a commemoration that took place in more than 70 U.S. cities.

Participants in Baltimore expressed concern about the way homeless programs are treated locally and the money they fail to receive. "It is unacceptable that this city can spend $220 million on a new stadium but only $270,000 a year on the homeless," said Rob Hess of the Center for Poverty Solutions.

Others such as social worker Pam Stein lamented the talk of moving from downtown Our Daily Bread and Health Care for the Homeless, the nonprofit health care center visited by 120 to 150 homeless patients each day.

"The city has become a place for people who have money," said Stein, who works at Health Care for the Homeless. "When Baltimore families can't enjoy the things that visitors can, we need to serve them first."

The National Coalition on Homelessness created the memorial day in 1989. "We want to make sure that homeless lives and deaths do not go unnoticed," said NCH community organizer Michael Stoops.

The coalition releases a study on an aspect of homelessness each memorial day. This year's re- search focuses on the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, the cause of more than half of homeless deaths in San Francisco, according to Bob Reeg, an NCH health policy analyst.

Shands spoke of the need to create a day resource center that would include homeless services at one location. "Most shelters turn people out at 6 a.m.," he said. "We need those centers soon. It's getting cold."

Diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus and syphilis 15 years ago at Health Care for the Homeless, Shands said the center helped turn his life around. Those at the center not only treated him, but directed him to housing and employment programs.

Shands, 39, lives in housing arranged through Shelter Plus Care and supervises the setup and cleanup of Camden Yards and the Ravens stadiums.

Pub Date: 12/22/98

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