THUNDER BAY -- The homeless community of Thunder Bay experiences a tremendous amount of loss year after year and were recently given a chance to grieve together.
A tree-planting ceremony took place Thursday in the Shelter House courtyard to commemorate the community members who have died in the past year.
Patty Hajdu, the executive director for Shelter House, said the ceremony was held to honour those lost to homelessness, systemic failures, poverty, and addiction.
“We planted a tree to commemorate those folks and to watch it grow and the tree represents the durability of people to survive,” she said. “We also have a ceremonial fire where people sang and offered tobacco and fruit to the spirits that they’ve lost. Everyone was welcome to do that and participate.”
Evelyn Winter was one of the participants.
“This memorial was really good, but some people even couldn’t come around because they couldn’t stand the deaths that happened,” she said.
Hajdu says that due to some cultural practices, some people weren’t comfortable attending, and actually observed the ceremony across the street, “which was very moving.”
Loss is a frequent occurrence in the Shelter House community. Just the week before the ceremony, a regular resident died while he was in hospital.
“When we see those kinds of numbers turning out, it’s a reminder of a couple things. One is just that loss and that ongoing sadness and trauma in our community, but also just how many people we lose, because each of those people are connected not just to one person, but sometimes 10 or 15 people that they’ve lost over the years.”
Hajdu adds that like any other treatment of a symptom that’s connected to a deeper root cause, temporary measures are just temporary.
Winter says she is still grieving those who have died.
“It still hurts, the people that we lost.”
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