TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Honoring homeless men and women who have died this year. That's what The Kearney Center did on Tuesday night by bringing people together to remember their lives.
The memorial is designed to recognize homeless individuals on the first day of winter that have died over the last year. The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year.
The longest night of the year is a reminder that people will be sleeping outside when the coldest temperatures of the season are on the way.
The Kearney Center helps people experiencing homelessness get back on their feet by providing shelter, food, and medical assistance.
This year, The Kearney Center is partnering with Big Bend Continuum of Care to commemorate over 20 lives lost in the community.
BBCoC's Executive Director, Johnna Coleman, says this is one of the only times people get to remember their friends.
"A lot of our neighbors who experience homelessness who pass away don't have a chance to be memorialized and this is an opportunity for their friends and family to come out and have that opportunity to remember them."
But that's not all, The Kearney Center has just received grant funding to help them continue their mission.
"I try to help them and they try to help me, I do everything I'm doing here because I like it I like to see people smile."
Rance Smith has been at The Kearney Center for 2 months…but he told ABC 27 he's going home in 3 weeks thanks to The Kearney Center's help finding him an apartment he can call his own.
The center just received a $10,000 grant to provide more emergency shelter and medical services. CEO, Samantha Vance, says grants like this make a huge impact.
"Support like this is so important."
The grant money will help cover a diverse range of services at the shelter like dental cleaning, dentures, food, and a safe place to turn.
Right now, the shelter has over 200 people and that number continues to grow.
"Not only are we covering the emergency shelter operations for folks but we're helping them to get housed and that's the ultimate goal for folks to become more self-sufficient."
The Kearney Center also has a diversion program, where they work with community partners to make sure people get back home. It's these partnerships that will continue to supply the possibilities of hope.
"So they can excel out on their own."
Something Rance will remember when he moves onto the next chapter.
"I'm homeless too but I still got a life I've got to keep it going."
The Kearney Center has just been approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines in-house and future community grants will help keep this going.
The Kearney Center serves 8 counties across the Big Bend.