Members of the Turlock community will gather on Thursday — the longest night of the year — to memorialize those who have passed away while homeless.
“This has been a tough year,” said We Care Shelter Manager Debbie Gutierrez. “We have had this year alone 16 homeless individuals die in Turlock.”
Gutierrez said this event was organized to give those in the homeless community a chance to mourn the loss of friends and loved ones.
“It’s important. Most of us walking around this world have family and friends who take time to organize a celebration of life… for the homeless that’s not true. Everybody matters, just because they’re without a house, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who still care about them,” she said.
The Turlock event, “Remembering You,” will start at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at 219 S. Broadway with a welcome and the lighting of candles. Turlock Police Chaplain Dave Williams will speak and then the names of those who have passed will be read, with a moment of silence and ringing of a bell for each name. The memorial service will end with songs.
Those being remembered who died over the past year include: Christopher Torres, Damian Vuarnet, David Schaffner, Hector Giron, John Sweeten, Justin Anderson, Maria Caldera, Michael Salgado, Norberto Martinez, Patrick M. Mulati, Robert James Costner, Ron Savage, Rudy Yvanes, Shane Monkhouse and Tim Hill. This is a preliminary list of names, said Gutierrez, and those who would like to add someone can contact her at 209-620-2414.
Hot coffee and soup will be served at the end of the service and donations of knit hats and scarves handed out, said Gutierrez.
While communities across the country have commemorated National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day since 1990 on or about the first day of winter, this will be the inaugural event for Turlock.
“We’ve participated in the Not Forgotten celebration in Modesto in the past, but it’s a huge challenge for folks in Turlock to attend there,” said Gutierrez.
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council and National Coalition for the Homelessness will be hosting a TwitterChat at 11 a.m. Dec. 21. Those interested in joining the conversation about why homeless deaths occur and how they can be prevented, can use the hashtag #nomorehomelessdeath.
Those who are so poor that they experience homelessness are three to four times more likely to die prematurely and have a life expectancy 30 years shorter than their housed counterparts, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
According to the last homeless count, performed in January on behalf of the Stanislaus Housing & Support Services Collaborative, there were over 1,600 people in Stanislaus County and 240 people in Turlock living without a home.