Kevin Valine

Organizers of homeless vigil seek donations, volunteers

Modesto Bee

Organizers putting together a candlelight vigil to remember the homeless men and women who died in the past year in the Modesto area need help.

They need donations of toiletries, and coats, jackets, socks, underwear, gloves, caps and other warm clothing to give to the homeless at the vigil. The clothing can be used as long as it is in good condition. Socks and underwear need to be new. They also need volunteers to help plan and put on the vigil.

The vigil is Dec. 21 — the first day of winter — at The Salvation Army’s Berberian Homeless Shelter and Transitional Living Center at Ninth and D streets, near downtown. The event is 7:15 to 8:15 p.m., and the public is invited.

This will be the 10th year that a vigil has been held in Modesto; it is part of the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, in which communities across the national hold vigils to remember those who lived and died on the margins of society.

Organizer Kimberlee Hamilton Anderson said too often the homeless are treated as though they are invisible and their lives don’t matter. She said the vigil recognizes their dignity.

“Even though we don’t have all the answers to homelessness, it’s such a complex thing,” she said, “we want to take this time to honor them. It’s important for their friends on the streets to honor them.”

She said The Salvation Army, Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Modesto Junior College chapter, and Golden Valley Health Centers are sponsoring the vigil. The Salvation Army also needs donations of toiletries, especially spray deodorant and towels, and warm clothing for its shelter clients.

Hamilton Anderson, who works at Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, said the vigil will include faith leaders, and she plans to invite officials with the Sheriff’s Department and the Modesto Police Department as well as City Council members.

Recent vigils have honored about a dozen people, but Hamilton Anderson said she suspects the number of homeless people who died this year will be higher. The list of the dead is compiled by those who work with the homeless and may not reflect all of the homeless who died in the past year. Hamilton Anderson said work on this year’s list has not yet begun.

The causes of death of the homeless often reflect the struggles and dangers of life on the street: homicides, suicides, drug overdoses or from natural causes while in their 40s or 50s.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

How To Help

Warm clothing and toiletries can be dropped of at The Salvation Army shelter, 320 Ninth St., or at 303 Downey Ave. The deadline for donations is Dec. 14. Donors should specify when dropping off donations at the shelter whether they are for the vigil or shelter clients.

Planning meetings for the vigil are being held Mondays at 4 p.m. at 303 Downey Ave. Those interested are invited to attend.

Call Hamilton Anderson at 209-312-0940 to learn more about how to volunteer and make a donation.