Longest day of the year feels longer to Maine's homeless

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Once a year the sun rises high in the sky and stays there for longer than any other day, even if just by a few moments, before it slowly sinks over the horizon.

While people in the northern hemisphere enjoy more than 12 hours of daylight Wednesday and celebrate the official start of summer, our neighbors to the south are experiencing the least amount of sun with their winter's inception. 

But let's focus on the positive. How will you use the extra daylight? 

A group in Maine is not letting the additional sun idle away.

Homeless Voices for Justice has set up in Tommy's Park between Middle and Exchange street in Portland, to ride out the day talking to the public about issues facing the state's most marginalized residents. 

HVJ organizer, Dillon Monahan says during summer homelessness increases while soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters in the area are being cut back or shuttering altogether. 

Monahan says heat and sun exposure can be deadly for people living on the streets. He says violence committed against homeless increases in Maine during the summer as well.  

Homelessness is not getting any better in the city," said Cheryl Harkins, an HVJ member.

"People's attitudes toward homeless people...(has) gotten worse. More light needs to be shed on the situation so people will realize nobody ever asks to be homeless. Just ask the mom who doesn't have a bed to tuck her child into."

Monahan says the issues they are focusing on this year are lack of affordable housing in Maine's largest city, gentrification, and cuts to social services. 

Among other factors, the heat and exposure alone can be deadly for people without housing. And following the national trend, violence committed against those who are homeless increases in Maine throughout the summer.

This is the group's 10th Annual Longest Day of Homelessness Summer Solstice Vigil. The group will be at Tommy's Park until 4:15 p.m.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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