Candlelight vigil to support homeless set for Friday

On the longest night of the year, people around the country have for 22 years held candlelight vigils to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

This year, a vigil will be held for the first time in Peterborough, when the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter will sponsor a gathering on Friday on the steps of the Town House from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

“We will be reading the names of 21 New Hampshire men and women whose lives were shortened by homelessness,” said Joan Foucher of Harrisville, the vice chair of MATS who is one of the vigil organizers. “We’ll stand with candles, sing a song or two and David Robins of the Unitarian church will do a closing blessing.”

They’ll also read a proclamation from Gov. John Lynch recognizing Friday as Homeless Memorial Day in New Hampshire.

In the message, Lynch wrote that 4,825 people received shelter in a state-funded emergency shelter last year and more than 17 percent were children. The avegage length of stay in an emergency shelter was 61 days.

Foucher said the annual one-day head count done in January this year tallied 2,438 people who were homeless in New Hampshire, a three percent decrease over the previous year. But in Cheshire County, numbers increased from 64 to 97 on the day of the count.

“Most providers say so many people are being missed,” Foucher said. “They may be sleeping on couches, bouncing around from home to home. Our sense is that there is an increase.”

She said MATS, which is one of six area shelters, served 16 adults and 17 children in 2012. It’s a center aimed at providing people with a way to transition into a permanent living arrangement, with the average length of stay of 124 days.

Foucher said MATS gets six to 18 calls a month inquiring about the shelter.

People attending the vigil are asked to bring their own candles.

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