BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative and Mayor Karen Goh gathered Wednesday morning in memory of the people experiencing homelessness who died this year.
Research shows people who are homeless are three to four times more likely to die than the general population. Studies across the world have also confirmed the relationship between a lack of housing and increased mortality rates.
The Homeless Persons Memorial Vigil took place Wednesday at the Historic Union Cemetery. Community members and local leaders remembered the lives of those who have died, through prayer, reflection and music.
“The reason that we do it today, on the winter solstice, is that it’s the longest night of the year,” executive director of the Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative said. Anna Laven said.
“So when we’re talking about people who are unsheltered, they’re sleeping on the streets, it’s really important for us to symbollically recognize what that experience is like to sleep out in the cold, to be out in the elements, be on hard concrete, to be living a life where you don’t feel dignity or respect coming from fellow humans.”
Laven says Wednesday’s event was planned by people who have experienced homelessness themselves, giving them the chance to coordinate the event to remember their friends and loved ones who have died.