BOZEMAN — December 21 marked the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. Community members in Bozeman gathered to remember and honor the lives of those experiencing homelessness who have passed away in the last year.
“It's a national event that occurs across the country to bring honor and memory to the folks who die while experiencing homelessness,” said Jenna Huey, Emergency Shelter Services Manager for HRDC.
The candlelight vigil in front of the Bozeman Public Library honored those who died homeless. In Bozeman, 7 people lost their lives in 2021, the most since the event started 4 years ago.
“I think it drives home the need for our homeless services in the valley,” said Huey.
As we head into the winter months and with an arctic blast headed our way next week, having access to the warming shelter for those who experience homelessness could be the difference between life or death.
“It literally does save lives—I mean, if we didn't have this facility folks would have to be sleeping outside in these freezing temperatures,” said Huey.
Through their work at the warming center, they have been able to know who died in the last year.
“Part of the reason that we know of individuals who passed away this past year is because we are keeping engaged with them after they leave the shelter when the shelter closes down,” said Huey.
Huey credits the outreach from the HRDC to help those folks who experience homelessness.
“The first step in getting someone engaged in services is setting that stage of support and trust and dignity, especially those that feel invisible,” said Huey.
The community reflects on the seven who passed away in the Bozeman area, on the darkest night of the year.
“Even if we didn't know them personally or individually, we as a collective and as a community still recognize them and still honor their memory,” says Huey.