community shelter vigil

The Community Shelter holds an annual vigil for former residents and clients. The event is always held during Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

MONROE — The Community Shelter of Union County silently honored former homeless residents and Shelter clients who died in the last year.

The traditional candlelight vigil and memorial service was canceled last week (Nov. 18) due to rising concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, “but we couldn’t let the memorial pass,” said Melissa McKeown, COO, in a statement. “Homeless and formerly homeless residents often don’t have family to hold a celebration of life at their death, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be held. Every life is important and should be recognized.”

Recognized were Joe Caruso, Brandon Winston, Betty Houston, Mary Polk and Danny Laney — all former residents at the Community Shelter who returned to independent living after a short stay.

The memorial service occurs annually during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a national celebration when people come together to draw attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness.

“Hunger and homelessness are not going away,” McKeown said in the statement. ”This year, the need for food, emergency shelter and rehousing have been greater than ever due to the COVID pandemic.”

Last year, the Community Shelter reports providing 73,946 prepared meals in the dining hall, 27,177 nights of emergency shelter for single adults and families plus 354,411 pounds of food for 2,483 community neighbors.

“This is a season when many of us think about what we are thankful for,” McKeown said. “It’s a perfect time to recognize that others don’t have the bounties that we have and to share our compassion with those who are experiencing hunger or homelessness.

“Neighbors receiving homeless and hunger services are thankful, too. They’re thankful for the Shelter and for the generosity of Union County residents who give and give and give. If it were not for the many churches, businesses, individuals and family supporters of the Shelter, our county’s residents would live without sufficient healthy food and a clean, safe place to sleep at night.”

For more information on the Shelter, go to or call (704) 289-5300.