Local clergy, civic leaders, community leaders and citizens concerned about the homeless gathered Tuesday evening at Hinesville’s First United Methodist Church for the first Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.
The observance — including prayers, mini-sermons, testimonials, special music and video presentations — memorialized the homeless who have died while living on America’s streets.
Among the clergy taking part in the observance were Chaplain Col. Robert T. Meek, senior chaplain for Fort Stewart; the Rev. Hermon Scott, Liberty County Homeless Coalition president; and the Rev. Katrina Deason, director of the Manna House. Civic leaders included Mayor Jim Thomas and Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette. Community leaders included Charli Shearer and Dr. Alicia Kirk of the Kirk Healing Center; Bruce Muncher; and Jim McIntosh, Good Friday Walk for Shelter chairman.
After a welcome by McIntosh and invocation by Meek, the observance began with a candle-lighting and prayer for the homeless. Marquis Morgan then read Psalm 23 and seven verses from Matthew 25.
“I’m grateful there are so many people in Liberty County who are concerned about the homeless,” Scott said. “But we can do more. I will not be satisfied as long as there is one person in our county who does not have a place to go.”
Scott was followed by Donna Jackson, who sang “You Raised Me Up.”
Deason told those attending how she came to be the director of Manna House. She called hunger and homelessness twins, explaining that part of her childhood often included being hungry. She related a story about a homeless young man she helped on several occasions. She paused and swallowed hard as she explained that he recently died while living on the streets.
“I am on board as chairman with working with the Homeless Coalition,” said Lovette, explaining how Scott appeared before the commissioners asking if there was some way the county could help the homeless. “There are things we can do to collaborate with the city to help the homeless. I am my brother’s keeper. And I’m ready to join hands and hearts to make a difference.”
Thomas began his remarks by reading a proclamation declaring Jan. 22 National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. He noted that 200,000 Americans live on the streets every night, saying that number represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population. With such a small number in the most prosperous country in the world, he said homelessness was a “solvable” problem.
“While we’re proud of the work we do (at the Kirk Healing Center), we don’t do enough,” said Shearer, whose center provides temporary shelter for single homeless men and women.
Shearer said she also had worked with and tried to help the homeless young man Deason had spoken of earlier. She also pointed out that as Deason was motivated to help the hungry by having been hungry, she was motivated to help the homeless because she had been homeless.
McIntosh said Matthew 25: 34-40 were the key verses of the Bible that motivated him. He showed a video presentation of last year’s Good Friday Walk for Shelter and invited everyone to participate in this year’s event March 29. The entire community is invited to take part in the walk, he said.