(Photos by Ruth Morrison)
Portland’s vigil for homelessness
By Ruth Morrison
On the longest night of the year
as the sun fell behind the buildings of downtown Portland
a throng of people gathered and processed from
the Preble Street Resource Center to Monument Square.
We were led by a drummer and a bag piper wearing his kilt!
He must have been cold!
At the monument it became evident how many people had come out.
It looked like three hundred or more to me.
There were homeless people there:
children and families, dogs and people in wheelchairs.
The service was simple and the message was clear: homelessness is deadly.
There was a reading of the names of the homeless in Portland who have died
this past year.
The length of the list and the growing light from the candles
The service ended with the singing of “Streets of Portland.”
Have you seen the couple at the Farmer’s Market
Searching for bottles, wearing worn out shoes
In their eyes you see their pride with their children at the side
Yesterday’s heartache never makes today’s news.
So how can you tell me that you’re lonely?
And say for you that the sun don’t shine
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Portland
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.
Have you seen the woman who walks the streets of Portland
Unsteady gait, her layered clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking
Hauling her home in 2 carrier bags.
In the dark at Tommy’s Park at a quarter past eleven
One young girl sitting there all alone
Looking for affection where she can find it
Walking off with strangers, no family of her own.
Have you seen our friend Tom who lives on the streets of Portland
Tattooed arms and open heart, gave all he owned away
In our winter city, the rain cries little pity
For those who fight with demons in their struggle day to day.