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Longest Night vigil memorializes those who died while experiencing homelessness

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Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 13:02:03-05

HELENA — On the longest night of the year, many gathered in Anchor Park to remember those who died while experiencing homelessness.

The 2021 Longest Night vigil honored Leonard Collins, Armando Frederico, and Carina Robin Otteson.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 1,500 Montanans suffered from homelessness in 2020.

And the United Way of Lewis and Clark County and the YWCA of Helena hosted the event, beginning with a prayer, a reading of names of those who died, and a candle ceremony.

Y.W.C.A, Executive Director Jenifer Gursky says it means the world to be able to hold a ceremony for the people lost during the year.

“Since 1990 December 21st has marked the longest night memorial a time to recognize and commemorate the homeless members of our community who have passed in the last year. As of January 2020 Montana had 1545 people experiencing homelessness on any given day that is over 200 more in the prior year,” said Gursky.

In closing remarks, Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins begged the crowd to make a difference in the community to change how the city and others view homelessness.

“Do not let it die here today. Let's start contacting YWCA, let's start contacting United Way, God's Love, Good Samaritan, Salvation Army, this city to put in our ideas,” said Collins.