Homeless people who have lost their lives in Grande Prairie will be remembered this month. Salvation Army Soup Kitchen Executive Director Peter Kim says gathering together to honour someone’s memory is a tradition and an important part of the healing process, even when they live on the street.

That is something Kim and the staff at the Salvation Army work to do when they lose one of their friends. Kim says they try to organize a memorial withing a few days of someone’s passing.

“There’s a community within the homeless community that sticks together and it’s just a way of saying goodbye. So we have a memorial service here right in the soup kitchen.”

He says it’s a way for people to come together and share stories about the person they have lost. Kim says it also helps to fight against the stereotypes the homeless face.

“Really, they’re just human beings who are struggling and needing assistance along the way. They’re no less in need of or deserving of a proper way of saying goodbye.”

Kim says the age of those they lost over the last year has varied. Some of them have been lost to illness or old age while others were lost to the ongoing opioid crisis. He also says it has a major impact on the staff at the Salvation Army.

“It’s really difficult. It’s emotional. You get to know them and they become your friends and they know you. It’s like family and it’s really tough to say goodbye.”

The staff have access to the Employee Assistance Program and they also spend a lot of time debriefing and discussing. In some cases staff may even be given time off to cope.

The city of Grande Prairie and many local support organizations are organizing the Healing Hearts Memorial. It will be held May 31, 2018 at the train trestle in Muskoseepi Park. Everyone is welcome to attend the event which is scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

The memorial will feature an Elders prayer, traditional dancing, drumming and speakers. The Rotary Clubs of Grande Prairie will be hosting a community barbecue as well.