“Vigil: Day of Remembrance”
Binns Park: National Homeless Memorial Day: December 21, 2019
The Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee joined the Lancaster County Homeless Union for a “Vigil: Day In Remembrance” event to culminate our “Week of Action.” Homeless Union chapters all over the United States hosted a vigil to honor those who were lost to us on the streets on the longest night of the year. The event was co-sponsored by Put People First! PA, Party For Socialism & Liberation, and the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival. We talked about the recent water shutoffs in Lancaster, shared stories of those we lost, pleaded for an end to the criminalization of the Homeless, an end to gentrification and the need to save the legacy of the old St. Joseph’s hospital.
Tammy from Put People First! PA shares how important and sacred Binns Park is to the poor and dispossessed of Lancaster, PA. Lancaster Food Not Bombs meets on Saturdays in Binns Park from 12-2pm to serve food to the community in need. Food Not Bombs is a global movement with over 1,000 chapters all over the world. One of the Co-Founders is Keith McHenry, a Leader in the California Homeless Union. Keith joined us in solidarity September 2019 for our “Medicaid March on Penn Medicine” along with other leaders from the National Union of the Homeless, Keith shared with everyone present that day that medical debt has caused him to become homeless on numerous occasions. (Video Link to her remarks here https://youtu.be/e9kNDAO2J4M)
Matt from Put People First! PA talked about the water shutoffs happening in Lancaster, PA and how they could lead to homelessness and he reminded us we are joined together for the day to remember those we have lost because of our unjust system. (Video Link to his remarks here https://youtu.be/TZyaB8PL0-g)
Kristin, Organizational Secretary and Organizer with the National Union of the Homeless shares with us the history of the movement, her thoughts and feelings about the establishment of the Lancaster County Homeless Union chapter through the National Union of the Homeless and the farce that is our economic system. (Video Link to her remarks here https://youtu.be/QriPRc-6RX8) Jacob from Put People First! PA and Theomusicologist with the PA Poor People’s Campaign a National Call for Moral Revival then led us in song (Video Link to us singing here https://youtu.be/dtpGL0qZv30)
Tammy from Put People First! PA shared about the fight of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee to “Take Back St. Joseph’s” and their continuing fight against UPMC. She broke down the question the Lancaster City Planning Commission asked the representative of UPMC and the answer that UPMC representative gave in regards to would or could UPMC allow the community to use the old St. Joseph’s Hospital as is for things the community needs.
Matthew from Put People First! PA shared his personal testimony of how he was denied bailed because he was homeless. Matt ultimately spent about 14 months in Lancaster County Prison because of being denied bail and he was found not guilty. He also shared the story of Gregory Bayne who was shot and killed by Lancaster City, PA police in June of 2013. Matt was in jail at the time and he shared with those present that day what it was like inside Lancaster County Prison at the time of Gregory’s murder. Matt explained how difficult it was for friends of Gregory’s to mourn his death while having to deal with heckling from the correction officers. (Video Link to Matt’s remarks here https://youtu.be/3mOsxkegN4U)
For the first time, Junior, a member of the Lancaster County Homeless Union (LCHU) gave testimony. Originally he wasn’t going to speak but when Matt shared the story about Gregory Bayne, he was inspired to speak. Junior shared testimony about the criminalization of the homeless by police. (video link to remarks here https://youtu.be/n4DxV6li2sc)
Kristin, spoke again and explained the history of the homeless memorial vigils and why we hold our own. She shared the story of what happened to “Mama Desi” and went on to say “We gotta have revolutionary perseverance” and she continued by stating that the National Union of the Homeless supports the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee in our fight to “Take Back St. Joseph’s” and the members of the Lancaster County Homeless Union who were present said they will join the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee in our fight to save the legacy of St. Joseph’s hospital with support from the National Union of the Homeless. If we all come together there is an opportunity to do something great with the old St. Joseph’s hospital, that will meet the needs of our community and hold true to the legacy that was once St. Joseph’s Hospital. Let’s unite and “Take Back St. Joseph’s” together!
(Video linkto remarks here https://youtu.be/hsmSQxrpZTI)