Let’s start with the hackneyed cliche, “It was a dark and stormy night” to describe the setting for last week’s Homelessness Awareness Vigil in Congress Park. It was dark, it was stormy, and windy and unexpectedly cold as a hundred concerned citizens gathered in recognition of homeless persons in our community. We huddled a bit deeper in our jackets, digging our hands into our pockets for warmth, spattered by raindrops, but hoping that the imminent downpour would hold out until the end of the vigil. Before the vigil began we all commented on the nasty weather, but we commented sheepishly because in the back of everyone’s mind was the thought that for the homeless this is just another night living on the street.
Once the vigil began we heard Theresa Taylor’s moving account of a childhood characterized by domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse and how this experience contributed to struggling as an adult and eventually finding herself homeless, desperate and terrified living in this very park where the vigil participants were gathered tonight. Her life transformed by the assistance provided by Shelters of Saratoga where she found not only shelter, food and warmth, but the support to change her life. In shelter her perception of who the homeless are changed as she met working people and professionals who were homeless. The experience contributed to her decision to go back to school. She now attends college and is working towards a degree in human services. So as we huddled in the park buffeted by wind, we found warmth and hope in Theresa’s story… and raised awareness of the need to help others who call these streets their home. We left the vigil without lighting our candles as the wind blew too hard, yet we each carried that light within us as we left knowing that while Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week was ending, the Saratoga County Housing Alliance and organizations like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN’s Youth Shelter, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services and Guardian House need our support all year long.