Hudson River Housing Hosts a Candlelight Vigil

POUGHKEEPSIE – Hudson River Housing (HRH) hosted a candlelight vigil in honor of Homeless Persons’ Remembrance Day on Thursday afternoon in Mural Square Park in the City of Poughkeepsie. The event is part of a national remembrance that draws attention to the homeless crisis plaguing the nation.

In Poughkeepsie during 2018 at least 10 homeless people have died, four of whom perished in the recent 61 Academy Street fire. The Academy Street house had been abandoned making it an attractive shelter for members of the homeless community for “squatting” purposes. The squatters were apparently using an assortment of candles for light and heat in the bathroom. The candles have been cited as the cause of the fire.

Christa Hines, executive director of HRH said “no one should be living homeless and no one should die homeless.” She said while the problem exists in Poughkeepsie, it goes beyond.

“It’s a much broader problem nationally,” Hines said. “All throughout Dutchess County we are seeing folks that are in need of housing and coming to use for services, so it’s a way for us to increase awareness.”

According to Hudson River Housing, 954 unique clients received shelter through their organization in 2018. Of those, 52 percent were homeless for the first time. A total of 19 percent of those receiving shelter were under the age of 18 and 28 percent had incomes of $1,000 per month.

HRH cited the income levels as a call for more affordable housing in Poughkeepsie. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said that “Dutchess has a pretty comprehensive response” to the homeless crisis that includes focusing on the underlying problems including mental health issues and drug addiction, both of which are addressed by county programs such as those available at the stabilization center.

Hines noted that serious life events such as the loss of a job or being stricken with a serious illness can also result in a person becoming part of the homeless population,

A gentleman who identified himself as Christopher took to the podium and told the audience “I’ve had a great life.” He said he was 60 years old and became homeless six months ago.

“My life was completely set and my dream home was paid for completely – no mortgage. I was going to spend the rest of my life in that house.” Christopher told of a series of unfortunate financial debacles that changed everything. He managed to maintain an upbeat outlook saying “we wouldn’t know a good day if we didn’t have a bad day.”

Brian Riddell, executive director of Dutchess Outreach was on hand to remind those gathered that his organization has several programs designed to help the less fortunate. “We operate the Lunch Box which is a free meal program that provides lunch and dinner five days per week and lunch on Sundays.” He noted that the Lunch Box typically serves 35-50 homeless people each day.

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