By Mikel Johnson, HEN Housing Assistance Specialist, Whatcom Homeless Service Center

Remembering Our Neighbors

On December 21, 2015, about 200 people gathered in front of City Hall. They gathered in the early dark of the longest night of the year for one important reason: Remembering those who experienced homelessness in our community whose lives were lost.

Although 2015 was the first time that an event was hosted in Bellingham, Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day has been held yearly since December 21, 1990. And this year, in the wake of multiple days of snow and freezing temperatures, it is not difficult to acknowledge that there are members of our community without homes who are suffering and whose lives may be permanently affected.

A 2010 National Coalition for the Homeless report stated that “seven hundred people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are killed from hypothermia annually in the United States.” That is hypothermia alone—only one danger facing those in our community without homes. Looking at those numbers might invoke sadness, or anger, or frustration—and it should.

And while it is important that we work as a community to create a safer, healthier, more supportive world for all, it is also important to mourn those our community has lost, to remember them, to honor them, to say their names, and to proclaim that, as Street Outreach Team Lead, Kate Robertson recently told me, “we have lost people that matter, because every life matters and is worth honoring.”

Please join us Wednesday, December 21 at 5:30 p.m. on the steps of City Hall to remember and honor the lives of our community members who were affected by homelessness and passed away in 2016.

A video of last year’s Homeless Memorial by Homeless in Bellingham film project can be found here: https://vimeo.com/150828700

The 2010 National Coalition for the Homeless report “Winter Homeless Services: Bringing Our Neighbors in from the Cold” can be found here: http://nationalhomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Winter_weather_report.pdf