The City of Hattiesburg and the Pine Belt Coalition on Homelessness gathered Monday to remember homeless persons who passed away in 2015.
“It’s a commemoration for us," said Kathy Garner, Executive Director of the AIDS Services Coalition. "All of us in the homeless industry have lost people to their homelessness, and no matter how hard we try, every year there’s another name added to the list. So we come every year to remember these folks, but also to recharge ourselves and to reconstitute our desire to continue the work that we do.”
Maxine Coleman, Neighborhood Coordinator for City of Hattiesburg, said the city has hosted a memorial every year since 2007. Garner said it is always held on December 21.
“This is the longest day of the year, and it’s also, in most places, the coldest day of the year," Garner said. "The beginning of winter. It’s a way to be able to look at people and hope that their days in homelessness become shorter.”
Garner said it's a healing experience for all of those who work with the homeless in any capacity.
“Everybody here is passionate," she said. "None of us would be in this field if we weren’t. We care about what’s happening with our fellow men and women, and to be able to come here and remember those that we’ve lost, and really, to take time for us. For our grief. To be able to say we’ve lost these folks, but we don’t want to lose anymore.”
She says it's also personally healing.
“It’s a time to reflect on the folks that I’ve lost that I’ve worked with. I’ve been working in the field with people who are living with HIV and who are homeless for 10 years now, and we’ve lost a lot. And I don’t want to lose anymore. So it helps me. This reenergizes me every year.”
Garner said fruit baskets, toiletries and clothes were donated to about eight shelters Monday night. If you would like to donate, call (601) 554-1005 for details.