© 2023 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Solstice vigil honors the lives of 51 unhoused people who died in Greater Portland in 2022

Wednesday marked the winter solstice, the beginning of winter and shortest day of the year. Advocates for the unhoused call it "the longest night of homelessness" and use the occasion to honor unhoused people who died living on the streets.

Preble Street, a Portland nonprofit that works to prevent homelessness, says 51 unhoused people in Greater Portland died this year.

Andrew Bove, vice president of social work for Preble Street, says resources are stretched thin.

"There's a real lack of emergency shelter right now, with winter approaching. Shelters in Portland are full, other parts of Maine don't have adequate shelters. People are being turned away with nowhere to go," he says. "Individuals experiencing homelessness in our state matter, they all have identities and need to be remembered. We have to come together to support this important community."

Preble Street says the life expectancy of an unhoused person is 28 years shorter than that of a person with housing.

About 100 residents gathered for the Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil, a candlelight march from Preble Street to Monument Square that included a ceremony to remember the lives lost and a call for better social supports for unhoused people.

Advocates for the unhoused say authorities in all levels of government must provide dignified shelters, affordable housing, and more programs for physical and behavioral health, and substance use disorders.