HELENA — Wednesday, December 21 is not only the first day of winter but also the shortest day of the year. And with that comes the longest night.
“So, tonight is the Longest Night Memorial, and we join with hundreds of cities across the nation to commemorate the lives of those who died this year due to experiencing homelessness,” says Executive Director of YWCA Helena, Jenifer Gursky.
The Longest Night Memorial was held at the Capitol Rotunda, Wednesday afternoon. The event remembers those in the community who have lost their lives due to being unsheltered and persistently insecure housing. Attendees were given purple ribbons to wear in order to bring awareness to the issue of people without homes or stable housing.
In Helena alone, 17 people died this year due to homelessness. The names of those who have died were read aloud at the event.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Montana has an estimated 1,100 homeless or unsheltered people on any given night.
And there has been an increasing concern over keeping people housed with the current affordable housing crisis in the state.
“And this is another way of bringing awareness to our homelessness, to our unhoused neighbors. And, you know, this at this day and age it still baffles me to see that we're still struggling with the problem,” says Mayor Wilmot Collins.
“And tonight brings awareness to situations like that and to opportunities for our community to do better,” says Gursky.
The event was facilitated by YWCA Helena and joined by such groups as Good Samaritan Ministries, Montana Jewish Project, and members of the City Commission.
Helena is just one of many cities across the US that held similar services.