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‘Longest Night’ memorial in San Fernando Valley gives community a chance to mourn non-domestic deaths

A memorial to mourn the deaths of homeless people living in the San Fernando Valley will take place on Saturday, December 18 in several locations and will end with a candlelight vigil in North Hollywood.

The “Longest Night Memorial” event, organized by two local groups supporting and advocating for non-domestic neighbors in the Valley, is being held as freezing levels approach in Los Angeles.

Nearly 1,500 people have died on the streets of Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to researchers at UCLA, who released a report titled “We Don’t Forget” earlier this month.

According to the report, the deaths are “evidence of dislocation and trauma caused by housing insecurity and displacement” and prison-like “isolation in shelter and emergency housing programs”, including those established during the pandemic, and that the need Emphasizes on humane permanent housing – which does not come with conditions.

Organizers say the event is being organized to allow the community to grieve amid the many deaths caused by the pandemic and Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.

“My community, my friends? They’re dying,” Karen Goldstein, a nonresident resident in the West Valley, said. “It is indispensable to us. It is everywhere – all the time. Even if you refuse to accept our lives and our deaths – we are human and we matter.”

An offenda was set up at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church in November to remember non-domestic neighbors who have died. (Photo courtesy of St. Matthews Lutheran Church North Hollywood)

The event is a collaboration between two Valley-based groups, West Valley Homes Yes, in the Northwest Valley, and the NoHo Home Alliance, which operates primarily out of North Hollywood. Both groups do regular outreach to non-residential communities in their area, and work to connect them with resources and housing.

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West Valley Homes Yes board member Kim Olsen said the memorial event “moved beyond conversations with our non-domestic friends about how many people we’ve lost and a desire to honor the friends we’ve had.

Another board member, Hannah Bowman, said multiple locations would help clarify that “all of our neighborhoods are having non-domesticated community deaths – nowhere near.”

A closing candlelight service will be held at the end of the memorial event at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, the home-base of the NoHo Home Alliance. Participants can light a votive candle in memory of an exiled person.

'Longest Night' memorial in San Fernando Valley gives community a chance to mourn non-domestic deaths
The Rev. Stephanie Jagger of St. Matthew Lutheran Church speaks during a service celebrating 90 years as a community-centered church on Sunday, November 14, 2021 in North Hollywood. (Photo by Drew A. Kelly, Contributing Photographer)

Stephanie Jagger, pastor of St Matthews and executive director of the NoHo Home Alliance, said the incident was not only a time to mourn the deaths, but an urgent call to action.

“It is time to reflect on how we can come together as a community to end homelessness,” she said.

Both groups also offer volunteers to help non-domesticated people. To learn more about the event, contact West Valley Homes Yes at (818) 305-4080 or call [email protected]

The memorial will stop at five locations throughout the day:

-11 am: Nordhoff and Oso, Chatsworth;

-12 p.m.: Eaton and VanOwen, Canoga Park;

-1 pm: 14449 Aitna, Van Nuys;

-2 p.m.: North Hollywood Park, Tjunga & Magnolia;

-3 p.m.: South Weddington Park (behind Universal Metro); And

-4 p.m.: Closing Candlelight Service, St. Matthews, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

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