In honor of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on Friday, Miami-Dade County held a candlelight vigil and memorial service to honor the 108 homeless people who died over the past 12 months. The service was held by the fountain on the west side of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami.
The service began with an opening prayer by Rabbi Solomon Schiff of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami and the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.
Deputy Mayor Russell Benford welcomed the crowd.
“I can’t think of a more fitting location and a more fitting way to honor those we lost this year,” Benford said at the service.
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Ronald L. Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, spoke at length and mentioned two formerly homeless women present: Pauline Clarke-Trotman, who was the mistress of ceremonies and helped organize the event, and Anita Martin of the Homeless/Formerly Homeless Forum, who read a poem called “Homeless for Christmas.”
“Probably if it wasn’t for Pauline and the Trust and what we do, all of these individuals would never be recognized,” Book said at the service.
Martin shared with the crowd that at 18 years old, she gave birth to a baby boy and had to give him up for adoption. Recently, she received a call from her son. They spoke for hours. Martin said her Christmas wish was to hug her son again, to tell him that she’s sorry and that she loves him.
As a surprise, Book brought out a suitcase. Book worked with the Miami Herald’s Wish Book and they are sending her to meet her son again for the holidays with all expenses covered. The crowd applauded.
The ceremony continued with candle lighting and there was a reading of all the names of those who died. A flower wreath was laid to honor them.
The service was also coordinated by the Homeless/Formerly Homeless Forum, Inc., The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, Inc.