Gone but not forgotten: a candlelight memorial for the city’s homeless

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec. 21, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Citizens of Calgary, many either experiencing homelessness or with lived experience, will gather tonight at Shaw Millennium Park to remember and memorialize those they have lost. The Longest Night of the Year is a candlelight memorial for those who have passed away while experiencing homelessness in Calgary. For many who have passed, this candlelight memorial will be the only commemoration of their lives.

Coordinated by the Client Action Committee (CAC) at the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), the goal of this memorial is to remember the lives of over 123 mothers or fathers, sons and daughters, who have passed away, either while sleeping rough, in emergency shelters or from illnesses or conditions related to their homelessness over this past year. Each person’s life matters. Each person deserves a celebration of life.

The memorial will feature a blessing as well as traditional singing and drumming. Members of the CAC will read each name of those they know who died before a minute of silence is held.

“You know, for many, they were just another face on the street,” says Randy Pages, a member of the CAC, “but what people don’t always realize is that they’re somebody’s brother, somebody’s daughter…somebody’s husband… and they all need to be remembered.” Randy slept rough in Calgary for four years before being housed last year.

“The Longest Night of the Year is an important memorial for volunteers on the Client Action Committee, for staff at the Calgary Homeless Foundation and our partner agencies,” says Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation. “Those who have died while homeless and sleeping rough on the streets of Calgary were our fellow citizens and we want to honor their lives by acknowledging their existence and remembering them. Tonight is about sharing our humanity; about honoring the lives of those who mattered to us and sharing our compassion for each other and for those we have lost. They were people and they mattered.”

“As we continue to fight homelessness in our community, we cannot forget those we’ve lost,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “But, like the winter solstice, we come together in the darkness to be reminded of the light ahead. There is no place for homelessness in our community. Together, we have the resources and the right solutions to make sure every Calgarian has a home.”

While there have been memorials held in shelters throughout the city, the CAC was driven to host one that every Calgarian could attend. Every Calgarian has a role to play in ending homelessness. In remembering those who have passed away, the cause of ending homelessness is kept urgent. A city’s collective commitment to ending homelessness and preventing such deaths in the future is a powerful tool in the fight to end homelessness.

About CHF
The Calgary Homeless Foundation is a catalyst and enabler for Systems and Service Agencies to optimize client success. CHF focuses on four strategic pillars of work; Advocacy, Research and Development, Systems Planning, and Funding (outcomes). In addition, CHF addresses gaps and identifies best practices to improve the system of care and enhance desired client outcomes. Through mobilization of collective impact, CHF is committed to moving forward in partnership with the many homeless-serving agencies, the private sector, government partners, local communities, the faith community, other foundations and all Calgarians to end homelessness in Calgary. For more information, visit calgaryhomeless.com.

About the Client Action Committee
The Client Action Committee (CAC) is a volunteer committee of individuals who have experience of, or are currently experiencing, homelessness in Calgary. They are a committed group of Calgarians who consult on a bi-weekly basis with the Calgary Homeless Foundation to provide a lived experience voice and perspective. Not only do they play an advisory role within CHF, they have coordinated multiple events for the community such as the 2015 Mock Election, the annual Longest Night of the Year memorial, have both attended and presented at the 7 Cities Conference of Housing and Homelessness on the benefit of client committees and have consulted on the federal National Housing Strategy.

Media Inquiries:

Calgary Homeless Foundation 
Joel Sinclair
Director, Marketing and Communications
Media Line: 403.615.7607
Calgary Homeless Foundation
Emily Bedford
Communications Specialist
Media Line: 403.615.7607