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In Memory of Our Homeless Neighbors

Editorial By Lt. Governor John Bohlinger

Date: Monday, December 17, 2007
Contact: Sarah Elliott (406) 444-9725

On January 31, 2007, volunteers identified 2,217 homeless Montanans during Montana’s annual Survey of the Homeless. Most had high school educations and many were working. Service providers say that the number represented in the survey is the tip of the iceberg: many of those who are homeless in Montana exist beneath the radar of the programs designed to ensure that they don’t fall through the cracks. They are sleeping on couches, in cars, camps, county jails or hospitals, and fewer than five percent will resort to asking strangers for money.

December 21st is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. It is the longest night of the year, and the day we honor those among us who died while homeless during the year. Montanans are remembering our own homeless persons in a number of ceremonies across the state: A candlelight vigil and ceremony was held in Billings earlier this month, Missoula is holding a vigil on Thursday and Helena’s memorial service is scheduled for noon this Friday.

More than two dozen people statewide will be commemorated at these ceremonies. These deaths are very difficult to track and the list is probably far from complete, nevertheless, far too many Montanans are dying in hunger and want.

The Schweitzer/Bohlinger Administration is committed to the kind of economic development that will provide better-paying jobs, housing and more education for all Montanans. We are committed to ensuring that Montana has an exemplary mental health system that can offer our people hope and recovery.

As Co-Chair of the Governor’s Council on Homelessness, I am deeply committed to addressing the issue of homelessness, both at a personal level and as a partner in this administration. “Montana is on the move” but some Montanans are left behind. We must work together to ensure all our citizens are safe, warm and economically secure.

If you are able, please attend one of Montana’s Homeless Memorials. Join me in supporting your neighbors and helping where you can.