Remembering Those Who Have Died Homeless
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Eleven years ago the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless planted a tree to remember and honor those who have died while homeless.
On Sunday a memorial was held at the tree; those in attendance tied ribbons on it and held a candlelight ceremony.
Paris Wallace, senior pastor at Connection Church, said, "Sad to think this individual died, many times because they just didn't have a place to sleep, and the weather gets cold, or life beats them down."
Mollie Woodard, chair of the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless, said, "In the homeless community there is less celebration and less ability to mourn the loss of people who have died, and this is important that they have that."
The tree gives family members and friends a place to come each year and remember their loved ones.
Lisa Strauss, homeless coordinator at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said, "Want to make sure that we honor those people who have lived hard and maybe died hard."
"It's a nice place for people to come that are homeless and acknowledge that loss and have a moment of peace," said Woodard.
"I'm afraid this is a population that people are sometimes not on the forefront of remembering," said Strauss.
Many at the memorial were providers, the people involved in a 10-year mission to end homelessness in the community.
Strauss said, "I think we're doing a really good job in identifying those folks who really do need help and getting them housed up and providing support so they can stay there."
"You can look at the data over the years. People are not dying at the rapid rate they were due to exposure," said Woodard.
A.J. Johnson, executive director of the Homeward Bound homeless shelter, said, "It's not so much just sheltering them, it's actually providing them some resources and some tools that they can grow and move forward."
They are face to face with homelessness every day.
"It's sad, you know, to realize there are lives that maybe they could've been spared, or they could've had a few more years in their life if they just had help," Wallace said.