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Stamford Calls Attention To Struggle On National Homeless Persons Day

Johnathan Bati'e holding a candle was one of the participants in a service to mark National Homeless Persons Memorial Day on Monday. It was held at the First Congregational Church in Stamford.
Johnathan Bati'e holding a candle was one of the participants in a service to mark National Homeless Persons Memorial Day on Monday. It was held at the First Congregational Church in Stamford. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- As people gathered in a Stamford church on the longest night of the year for National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, Jonathan Bati'e said homelessness is not a dry statistic but a daily struggle.

"Under God's green sky right now," Bati'e said when asked where he lives before the local service was held at First Congregational Church in Stamford on Monday night. The event is held annually on the first day of winter.

Bati'e, who moved from Florida to Stamford a few months ago for a job that fell through, has fallen between the cracks because he is from out of state and never established a legal residence here. While many homeless people come from domestic abuse situations or leave prison with nowhere to go, others find themselves without a home due to life's turns.

"Anyone can be homeless. It can just be circumstances in life that can lead you to a situation," he said. "My message is: hope for those who feel no hope keep your faith more than anything."

David Rich, executive director of Supportive Housing Works, said homelessness can be eliminated in a wealthy area such as Fairfield County.

"Given the resources we have here, we can get this done and it is not idle talk. We can end homelessness as we know it," said Rich, who works with many housing-related agencies. "In the wealthiest portion (of Fairfield County), the wealthiest county and the wealthiest nation in the world we can get this done and not in years, in months."

According to information at the event, 4,047 people were in emergency shelters or similar facilities during a statewide survey on a single night last February. More than half of those were single adults, but one in five were homeless children. Of those, 816 were with family members, while 11 children under the age of 18 were unaccompanied minors.

Monday's event was sponsored by Inspirica, Laurel House, Liberation Programs, Optimus Healthcare, Shelter for the Homeless and the InterFaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut.

The Rev. Kate Heichler, chair of the InterFaith Council, said the high cost of housing often leaves people desperate, forced to choose between paying rent or paying for food or utilities.

Even for people working two or three jobs, an unexpected event can see wreak havoc on their living situation.

"One car disaster or health disaster, and they can slip into homelessness," she said.

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