CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ten homeless people who died in Charleston over the past year were remembered during a ceremony Wednesday at the state Capitol.
The Kanawha Valley Collective hosted the 2nd Annual Homeless Persons Memorial in the Lower Rotunda where a small group gathered to pay their respects.
Six people died on the street. The other four were able to find housing through the KVC, but later died.
Traci Strickland, director of homeless programs at Prestera Center for Mental Health Services in Charleston, read the names of those who died. A bell rang for each name.
“All too often people label people homeless and it’s kind of like they were homeless period,” Strickland said. “Really, they were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers.”
Last year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin officially proclaimed Dec. 21 as National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. Strickland said it’s also the longest night of the year.
“When we’re losing people on our streets, we’re remembering them really on what it the longest and probably one of the coldest nights of the year,” she said.
Strickland said a big misconception about homelessness is that people choose to live on the streets.
“The thing that we really want people to remember is that we’re remembering people who were homeless, but that is not who they were. That was a situation they were in,” she said.
Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37) and Charleston City Councilwoman Rebecca Caperly were the two speakers at Wednesday’s event.