Homeless Memorial in Bel Air

Folks gather in the Frederick Ward Park next to the Bel Air Armory Thursday afternoon for the Homeless Persons' memorial service and candle vigil. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / December 19, 2013)

Standing in a small park in downtown Bel Air Thursday afternoon, Central Christian Church Pastor Buddy Kaufman read off the names of the eight homeless Harford people who died in the last year without adequate shelter.

Tears welled in the eyes of family members and others gathered in Frederick Ward Park next to the Bel Air Record Armory for a memorial litany service to remember the eight.

A few dozen people lit candles to pay their respects to those Harford residents who could not get to shelter in time.

"Father we pray for any family that's been affected by the loss of a loved one," Kaufman prayed. "Show grace, mercy and love to those that are hurting."

Craig Perticone, of Baltimore County, said his daughter Ashley Perticone Anderson, died on Oct. 7 in Harford without a secure place to stay.

"Ashley was roughly 15 or 16 years old — a typical kid — when she got involved in smoking pot," Perticone told the crowd. "At 14 she was diagnosed as bipolar and she had insurance and took her meds, but once she got married she lost it."

Perticone said his daughter eventually turned to heroin and lost custody of her daughter. He said he and Ashley's mother tried to help her get clean, spending thousands of dollars to put her in programs.

"The cheapest program was $1,000 per month," Perticone said. "We were lucky that we had the money to put her in programs. I can't imagine what people do who don't"

Perticone said his daughter never got clean. She moved into the woods near a methadone clinic for a year and a half. And eventually died in October.

"I figure God said, 'I am taking care of it my way,'" Perticone said. "I believe she's up there in recovery."

Casey Stengel, 64, of Aberdeen, also lost his brother, who became homeless following an alcohol addiction. Stengel said he told his brother that his alcoholism was getting too bad and he could no longer live with him.

"We found him dead in a tent in Perryman," Stengel said. "I share the guilt in the death of my brother, but so does every agency that turned him away."

Harford County's Health Care for the Homeless Project first began participating in the national recognition of Homeless Persons Memorial Day in 2007. Since then HCH has partnered with other local organizations to hold the annual ceremony around the county.

In 2013, the Harford County Department of Community Services counted 166 homeless people during the point-in-time count of homeless individuals on a single night in January. Last year, 178 homeless individuals were reported during the count and 243 were identified in 2011, a peak year over the past six years.

According to the Department of Community Services, 61 percent of the homeless people counted in 2013 were women.

The 2014 point-in-time count is scheduled for Jan. 29, according to Elizabeth Hendrix, director of Community Services.

"We go to the woods, motels and shelters and take a count, talk to them about why they are homeless and try to provide resources," Hendrix said. "The information collected is used to apply for federal and state funding to meet the needs of the homeless community."

Hendrix said single homeless adults have become the most vulnerable population in Harford.

"We have lots of options for families," Hendrix said. "But it is harder to provide opportunities for single adults."