BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Across the nation and right here in Bakersfield, vigil's are taking place to remember the lives lost this year within the homeless community.
Tackling homelessness is the signature issue for 23ABC, and today marks the 31st annual Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. On this day, communities gather to remember those who have died without a loved one by their side throughout the year.
While this has taken place for over 30 years nationwide, today was the first time it’s happened in Bakersfield as community members gathered for a vigil honoring the homeless at Union Cemetery on Tuesday.
“Today the community has gathered at union cemetery to remember the lives of the 86 persons who have experienced homeless, who have passed this last year," said Karen Goh, Mayor of the City of Bakersfield.
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh says it’s important to not only remember those who died of homelessness, but remember them with a deeper meaning.
“We don’t remember them just as the homeless, but we remember them as individuals, as our brothers and our sisters," Goh said.
Anna Laven, Executive Director with the Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative, says it was essential for the Bakersfield community to have a space to remember those who have died from homelessness this year because of the effects of the pandemic.
“I would certainly say that covid has taken its toll, and we are seeing our rise potentially in those experiencing homelessness that are passing away, and we really wanted to provide that opportunity for the homeless service providers who think of their clients, their guests, their residence, as family,” Laven said.
Laven adds that when it comes to caring for the homeless community, this event signifies they are not alone.
“While we may not have been with them in that moment, so many of us and our homeless service providers, we’re providing them with love, and they weren’t alone,” Laven said.
Showing that they aren’t alone – and taking action – something Bakersfield city council member – Eric Arias says this event manifests.
“Certainly a milestone in us turning the corner on the homelessness issue and making sure that we show not only in our words but also through our actions that we come together and honor all lives here in our community, Arias said.
The homeless collaborative says while this is the first time this is happening in Bakersfield, it won’t be the last as they plan to host the vigil every year now.