A vigil to remember the 37 homeless people who died in Greater Portland this past year will be held Thursday night in downtown Portland.

Portland’s annual homeless persons’ memorial vigil will take place on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

The vigil will begin at 4 p.m. in the courtyard of the Preble Street Resource Center, at the corner of Preble and Portland streets.

For 23 years, the people of Portland have gathered on the evening of the winter solstice to mourn lives that were cut short and to reaffirm a commitment to finding everyone a place to live.

“The life expectancy of our friends who endure chronic homelessness is 28 years shorter, on average, than that of people who are housed,” Mark Swann, Executive Director of Preble Street, said in a statement issued Monday. “The human toll of allowing these vulnerable neighbors to slip through the cracks is devastating, not only to those of us who knew and loved the 37 people we’ve lost so far this year, but to our community as a whole.”

After gathering at the Preble Street Resource Center, the crowd will walk to Monument Square for a commemoration ceremony. Candles will be lit to honor the memory of each member of the homeless community who died in 2017.

The event is sponsored by the city of Portland’s Health and Human Services Department, Greater Portland Health, Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital and Preble Street.

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