Brunswick shelter to hold annual vigil for homeless

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BRUNSWICK — The winter solstice marks this year’s shortest day, a good excuse for many to deck their homes and streets with multicolored lights.

But for those without a home, often living on the streets, it’s a cold, dark, lonely night. The longest night.

Tedford Shelter will join similar agencies around the country on the solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, to memorialize homeless people who died this year. The Brunswick service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St., at 5 p.m., and feature a brief service, refreshments and music.

Tedford houses 12 men and four women at its adult shelter, as well as six families at its family shelter. Both tend to be full, Jennifer Iacovelli, Tedford’s director of development, said. Tedford also offers 37 supportive housing apartment units for individuals and families that had been homeless.

The Rev. Carolyn Eklund will lead the service, along with members of Tedford Housing’s staff and board, and the town’s homeless community and supporters. A list of those who died over the last year will be read, and words will be spoken about them.

If weather permits, a candlelight vigil will be held outside in the courtyard on Pleasant Street.

“It’s just a nice service,” Iacovelli said Tuesday. “It’s pretty short … but it’s pretty powerful, and it’s kind of a neat way to go into the holidays.”

The ceremony is a time to “be thankful for what you do have, and for having that home, and just recognizing that not everybody has a home,” she added.

Among those to be memorialized will be Jack Wilson, a former Tedford resident who was shot during an altercation last summer in Portland.

Giff Jamison, Tedford’s director of operations, shared a report by National Health Care for the Homeless Council that said the mortality rate for homeless people 50 and older is four times higher when compared to the general population. Prolonged exposure to the stress of unstable housing can often lead to “weathering,” causing people to appear 10-20 years beyond their actual age.

“Living on the street or in homeless shelters exacerbates existing health problems and causes new ones,” the NHCHC states. “Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, mental health problems and other ongoing conditions, are difficult to manage under stressful circumstances and may worsen. Acute problems such as infections, injuries and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Brunswick residents gather at a candlelight vigil outside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Pleasant Street last Dec. 21 for Tedford Housing’s annual homeless memorial service. This year’s vigil will be held Friday.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.