Fourteen — it’s a number that should shock all of us.
That’s how many people died last year in Vernon because they were homeless and at risk from associated issues such as mental health and substance abuse.
Society unfortunately often overlooks their passing because they were homeless, but consider that they were someone’s son, daughter, parent, friend or spouse.
You may have not known their name but you might have walked by them on numerous occasions or come across them reading the paper in the library.
They were part of our community.
That’s why Chuck Harper’s concept of a homeless memorial is something the entire community should embrace.
“We want to do something that honours the lives of our street friends,” said Harper, a community chaplain and residential worker for the John Howard Society.
Harper wants to ensure these lives lived don’t go unnoticed, that their time here was as significant as the politicians, merchants, volunteers, labourers and others who call Vernon home.
The memorial will be a place where those left behind will be able to reflect on their loved ones.
But Harper’s vision is more influenced by the future than the past.
“…We can move forward and eliminate homelessness and poverty,” he said.
A memorial would be a call to arms to elected officials, social agencies and rank-and-file citizens that the root causes of homelessness must be addressed — that we must all extend a hand to a neighbour in need.
Creating a memorial in Polson Park won’t solve all of the world’s problems, but it could motivate all of us to act and to be more compassionate.
It’s a move towards ensuring there isn’t a number 15.