Candlelight Vigil Honors Victims of Homelessness


The shrine included the names of more than 24 people who passed away in the Alameda and Santa Clara Counties this year.

Arshad Mohammad, Staff Writer

On Nov. 18, Adobe Services and the St. James Episcopal Church co-hosted their sixth annual interfaith candlelight vigil, to honor the residents of Alameda and Santa Clara Counties who passed away while homeless in the past year. The vigil took place at the St. James Episcopal Church from 7-8 P.M. and featured guest speakers, a spoken list of the names of the deceased, and prayers from a variety of religious institutions. 

Speakers such as Adobe Services’ CEO Louis Chicoine, Mayor Lily Mei, and Adobe Services’ Peer Specialist Meli Harmon spoke about the increasing need to take action against the number of people going homeless. 

“Abode Services has rehoused over 10,000 homeless individuals in the last nine years alone and yet we are falling behind,” said Chicoine. “Today, for every person we house, three others are becoming homeless. We need to have a sense of urgency about this.” 

According to the City of Fremont, the rate of homelessness in Alameda County has been rapidly increasing; from 2017 to 2019, the total number of people experiencing homelessness has increased by 43%. Homelessness in Fremont has increased by 27%, ranking the city as the third-highest among those in Alameda County.

The controversy surrounding the creation of a Navigation Center in Fremont made the event especially important this year. Many families and friends of those lost to homelessness used the vigil as an opportunity to advocate for the navigation center. Meli Harmon, having experienced homelessness herself, shared her experiences and reminded everyone in the room of the courage it takes to survive without the warmth and protection of shelter. 

“Let’s allow ourselves to use this grief, our love, to motivate us to rebuild the unjust system they battled every single day,” said Harmon. 

After the speakers had shared their condolences, the crowd moved outside to the front of the church. As the Cub Scouts from Troop 163 helped pass around candles, the attendees formed a circle around a shrine made of candles wrapped with the names of those that had passed away. To honor the departed, their names and a few short sentences remembering them were read aloud by Reverend Loli Walton. Specials prayers were offered by Reverend Jeffrey Spencer, Granthi Sarabjit Cheema, and the founder of Meet a Muslim Conversations, Moina Shaiq. Near the end of the vigil, James Logan High School’s chamber choir sang “Looking for the Light” in remembrance of those that passed away. 

To support those currently homeless, Cub Scout Troop 163 also held a canned food drive. By the end of the event, more than three large tubs were filled to the brim with canned food. Adobe Service’s board member, Tarrah Henrie, wrapped up the event with a call to action encouraging everyone to facilitate a healthy discussion about the homelessness and hunger issues in our area and support Adobe Services’ endeavors in providing the underprivileged with homes.