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Longest Night of the Year

Monday, 18 December 2017
This Thursday, I will have the honor of being the emcee for this year's Longest Night of the Year Ceremony. So I wanted to discuss a little about what Longest Night means to me, and why it's important the homeless have their own day of memory.

You see, the first Longest Night in Calgary was four years ago. It was unsanctioned, but then again, Circle Park (aka James Short Park) has vagrancy rights, so we didn't need a permit for just a small gathering. It was a bunch of friends and myself sitting in a section of the park with lit candles and coffee and sharing stories of people we loved and missed. All of us had lost someone. Almost anyone who's survived on the streets for any length of time will have lost someone.

Thankfully, no one stopped us - turns out we actually did need permits for the lit candles - and throughout the night people joined us as they became curious as to what we were doing, shared stories of their own, and even shed some tears. It became clear that people on the streets needed a way to grieve and to mourn.

There is a reason I refer to myself as a 'Survivor' of homelessness, and use the term for other who have been homeless. People who are homeless are more likely to die from almost every cause. More likely to die from addictions and overdoses, more likely to die of illness, more likely to be a victim of homicide, both premeditated and as a random act of violence or hate crime, more likely to commit suicide. There is also the constant threat of exposure to the cold. There is no real hospice care for the homeless, though some doctors hit the streets directly and try their best. No opportunity to live in dignity or die in dignity. Many funeral homes go empty as friends who would love to attend are often never made aware of funeral arrangements, or are themselves trying their best to survive or work. To honor their memory one night a year might be the only dignity they would ever be granted.

These are not just people experiencing homelessness. They are brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, uncles and aunts and grandparents. They are friends. They are street family and blood family.

These are just some of the members of my street family I remember every year in no particular order:

I miss each of you every single day. Godspeed my chosen family.

The 2017 Longest Night of the Year Homeless Memorial Service will be held on Dec. 21st at 5pm at Shaw Millennium Park in Calgary. I wish to thank the members of the Client Action Committee at the Calgary Homeless Foundation for fighting with me to make this a reality. All are welcome to join, whether homeless, a survivor of homelessness, family of someone homelessness, friend of someone homeless, or anyone else wishing to pay their respects and honor our loved ones and friends.

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