City of Calgary Homeless Memorial Project What
: A public reflective space that honours our community members who have died while experiencing homelessness in Calgary. We envision a space that includes three key elements: 1) a monument or structure that invites people to reflect, 2) a bench where people can rest, 3) a commemorative plaque. Where:
We are engaging in ongoing conversations with the City of Calgary, the Calgary Parks Foundation, and various neighbourhood associations about finding the perfect spot for our project. Our desire is that the memorial site will be located within the downtown core and accessible via the CTrain freezone. When:
Annually on winter solstice, the Calgary Homeless Foundation organizes a memorial event called The Longest Night of the Year, which honours people who have died within the past year while experiencing homelessness in Calgary. It is our desire that the 2018 Longest Night of the Year memorial service will be held at the new permanent location of this project. Who is organizing: The Client Action Committee
(CAC) of the Calgary Homeless Foundation is a group of people with either past or current experience of homelessness. For years, the CAC has been discussing the need for a contemplative space where the lives of people who have died while experiencing homelessness can be honoured. In 2017, University of Calgary social work professor Dr. Jessica Shaw
initiated a research project that, in part, sought to understand the end-of-life care needs and desires of people who had experience with homelessness in Calgary. This research further highlighted the need for a public space where people can go to remember friends who have died while experiencing homelessness. Why this project is important:
-In 2017 in Calgary, at least 132 people who were experiencing homelessness are known to have died from natural and traumatic causes.
-Many people who experience homelessness are disconnected from their biological families, and the relationships that are formed and sustained on the street can become as important, or more important, as their families. When someone loses a member of their street family, the personal and community loss can be devastating.
-When a person is dying from a terminal illness, it is not always possible for street family to visit them in hospital or hospice.
-Sometimes when a person dies, street family are not aware of the death for days or even weeks. If the deceased’s biological family is notified, they may not know who to reach out to in order to share the news. If the person who dies does not have identification, their body can be moved and buried before anyone finds out what happened. Without knowing when a person dies or where their body is laid to rest, there is a missed opportunity to mourn at either a funeral or a gravesite.
-When a person is buried, the location of their final resting place may not be within the city of Calgary, and if it is within city limits, it may be at a location that is unknown to people who are not biological family, or is inaccessible to people without a vehicle.
-People who have experienced homelessness in Calgary have identified the need for a place where they can go to gather, mourn, and reflect upon the deaths of friends. Project Lead:
This collaborative project is rooted in the work of the Client Action Committee of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and is supported by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, and by numerous community organizations. All ideas related to the project are discussed with community members, with the project lead acting as a facilitator rather than a decision-maker.