Vigil honors the unsheltered York-area people who died in 2022

Vigil honors the unsheltered York-area people who died in 2022


Parishioners laid out ten pairs of shoes outside the Union Evangelical Lutheran Church on Wednesday night to commemorate vulnerable people in the York area who died this year.

“There’s at least 10,” said Kelly Blechertas, program coordinator for the York County Coalition on Homelessness. “Maybe there are others.”

Some have been victims of crime. At least four died in cold weather like York County experienced this week. They are all worth remembering, said Blechartas.

The shoes, she said, will be given to those in need.

Blechertas said the exact number of deaths in the homeless community is unknown. This information is tracked in a narration in the coroner’s report, but has generally not been easy to monitor.

More: The flu season is getting worse in York County — and it could get worse

More: ‘I was devastated’: Central York activists are told by the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr honored

More: Do you notice a slowdown in US Postal Service delivery? Here’s why.

However, that will change in 2023.

As of January, county coroner Pam Gay said her office will track protected status — assuming it is known — in an informal chart. It will assist the various organizations that provide services to York County’s homeless population and potentially identify trends at the local level.

Meanwhile, a small group of people gathered on Wednesday night to commemorate the unprotected people who have died over the past year.

During the vigil, Rev. Joel Folkemer told the small group standing on the church steps and sidewalk that they had gathered on the longest night to pay tribute to those who had died and were homeless in the past year.

“I’ve heard that seven out of ten people are one emergency away from being on the streets,” said Rev. Joel Folkemer of Union Evangelical.

It’s a sobering statistic, Folkemer added, noting that homelessness can affect anyone.

Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

Frank Conrad pulled up at the vigil with his wagon full of bedding and clothing.

“It’s really nice to see that they care,” said Conrad, who himself carried his belongings to a safe place for the night.

Blechertas said at least 350 people are living on the streets or in shelters across the country. Another 2,000 depend on various affordable housing programs.

“But that’s just a fraction of the people we know who are affected by homelessness,” she said. “Not everyone on the street is going to approach and look for such resources.”

And those numbers don’t take into account those in unstable housing, meaning they have a roof over their heads, but it’s not theirs, Blechertas said.

“This is a baseline,” she said, explaining that they know the number is “significantly higher.”

No organization can address this, she added.

“People want to help and we want the community to help because this is a community,” said Robin Shearer, executive director of Friends & Neighbors of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Their organization regularly sends out crews to check places where they know the vulnerable community lives. The crews provide them with medical assistance and escort them to emergency shelters. They also provide sleeping bags, phones, and transportation stipends.

However, Shearer cautioned listeners not to help by leaving mattresses, raw food or milk on Union’s doorstep without notice. When that happens, neighbors call and complain. The police can come by and force the people sleeping on the Union steps to go somewhere else.

The social workers then lose track of that person, Shearer said. People without accommodation who have mobility or other health problems may injure themselves when trying to find a new place to sleep.

Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

For those who would like to donate sooner, Blechertas recommended contacting organizations affiliated with the York County Coalition on Homelessness directly, including Covenant House of Pennsylvania, Friends & Neighbors of Pennsylvania, and Valley Youth House. Each group has a wish list that they will update regularly, she said.

Donating money to the organizations could also be a good way to help.

“I know people struggle with monetary donations,” she said, explaining that even $20 can be used to help people with their actual needs. For example, the donation can help pay for a copy of their birth certificate or prescriptions.

More: Santa’s reindeer receive a clean bill of health and permission to fly around Pennsylvania

More: Fatal accident closes roads in southern York County

More: Missing York County woman found safe

The Coalition will host a homelessness forum on February 3 at 6:30 p.m. at York College Center for Community Engagement, 59 E. Market St.

For those sheltering this weekend, call LifePath before 5:30 a.m. to check in at the women’s shelter at 717-845-5947 or the men’s shelter at 717-472-8890. They will send the excess to a York CARES shelter when it is open. This Asbury United Methodist Church property can be reached at 717-843-7615. Friends & Neighbors also has an outreach hotline, 717-699-8445.

A Complimentary Community Christmas Dinner will be held on December 25 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 839 W. Market Street, York.

— Reach Meredith Willse at [email protected] or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *