BOZEMAN — On Thursday evening, the Bozeman community will remember those who lost their lives while experiencing homelessness during a Homeless Persons' Memorial Day vigil.
"It's a really great event to bring awareness, education, and connection to a community that desperately needs it right now," says HRDC's Jenna Huey.
Homeless Persons' Memorial Day is observed across the country. Huey says remembering the homeless lives lost on Dec. 21 comes with a deeper meaning.
"It's held on December 21st, the first day of winter. So it's also the shortest day and the longest night," says Huey, "and that's really intentional because of the somber nature of the event."
Huey says since 2020, HRDC knows of about 22 homeless deaths. She says in 2023 alone, they say 8 homeless people died. But these people aren’t just numbers. Huey remembers one man who left a mark on her.
"Last winter he lost his toes to frostbite because he wasn't changing his socks often enough. And your socks get wet when it's cold out, and that can cause it too. Thankfully, he was one of the ones that did move into housing before he passed. He was only in housing for maybe about a month or two," says Huey.
She says it’s people like him that keep her passion alive.
"The staff, that's why they're so dedicated, because they see the human in each person," says Huey, "and events like the Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, just bring that to light on a larger scale."
And that all people, no matter their living situation, deserve to be remembered.
"So many of the people we work with don't have a support system or people that remember them. And so my approach is that regardless of whether we knew their names or not, every person in this community deserves to be remembered with honor and dignity," says Huey.
The vigil will be held Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Bozeman Public Library.