The event was intended to remember those who have lived and died in homelessness, particularly five homeless Cobb residents who died in 2012. After a 30-minute candlelight vigil, a service was held in front of Marietta First United Methodist Church.
There, congregants read each name, lit a candle and rand a bell in each person’s honor. Finally, moments of silence were observed for the five: Jennie Coston, 55, who died after being hit by a car on Mother’s Day on South Cobb Drive; Eddie Brumbelow, 55, who died of cancer Sept. 25; Tamara Kelley, 45, who is believed to have died of a heart attack on March 4; Joann Jennings, who is thought to have died of cancer; and a man named “Big Mike,” who is believed to have died of diabetes.
Carolyn Bridges, chief operating officer for the Center for Family Resources, read off grim statistics for the homeless. She said the average age of the homeless is 9, homeless women are 20 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than an average woman and a homeless adult is expected to die 20 years before one with a home.
The Rev. Bob Milburn, MUST Ministries’ director of spiritual formation and outreach, said similar vigils were held across the country Friday. They are planned for the first evening of winter because it is the longest night of the year that the homeless will have to face.
Tyler Driver, executive director of The Extension homeless drug and alcohol treatment center, referred to the death of B.R. Hogan, a homeless man who was found dead in 1987 under the bleachers at Lemon Street Stadium in Marietta. The death of Hogan, who had been treated at two hospitals for alcohol-related problems and was found to have a high blood-alcohol level, led to the creation of The Extension.
While Hogan died on a cold night, Driver said cold-heartedness played a larger role in his death.
“We’re not here because there’s a problem,” he said. “We’re here because there’s a solution. We must be that solution. If not, the coldness that killed Mr. Hogan will surely consume us.”
Between 600 and 700 people live in homeless shelters in Cobb, with more living on the streets. Lee Freeman-Smith, interim executive director of the Cobb Community Collaborative, said several groups are able to work together by tackling different areas of homelessness, with MUST focusing on single people, the Center for Family Resources dealing with families with children, The Extension providing addiction services and Zion Keepers helping homeless veterans.
“The eight or nine of us work together on homeless issues,” she said. “The uniqueness of it is that nobody falls through the cracks.”