BILLINGS- Friday is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. But the other side of that coin, it’s the longest night of the year, a fact that will be most deeply felt by those without homes.
For the 25th year, members of the Billings community gathered for Homeless Person’s Memorial Day Friday, hosted by Riverstone Health on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn.
The candlelight vigil is designed to bring attention to the lives of those who are most often pushed to the margins of our society.
Clarence Salley, manager of healthcare for the homeless at Riverstone Health, says he sees it all too often.
“They are invisible. I have been called to come and identify them in the ER or on the medical floor, and it’s just a shame that we just put a white sheet over them and they disappear,” said Salley.
The 30-mile-an-hour winds served as a fitting reminder that being out in the Montana elements can be unpleasant, even in short spurts.
Homeless individuals in Montana are three times more likely to die prematurely than those with permanent housing.
Salley noted the importance of closure for those who often go without it, and said that even with all the negatives he sees, he has hope for the homeless population in Billings.
“I’m really grateful for the big heart that Billings does have,” said Salley.