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Bend ‘Longest Night Vigil’ honors 15 people who died while experiencing homelessness

(Update: Adding video and Burklo comments)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- On the longest and darkest night of the year, more than 20 people along with the Homeless Leadership Coalition honored 15 people who died this year while experiencing homelessness.

A memorial service for homeless persons was held for the second year in a row at Pioneer Park in Bend at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to a news release by the Homeless Leadership Coalition, 14 people have died in Central Oregon while living houseless this year. (The number was revised to 15 at the vigil).

“These are human beings that need to be remembered and honored,” said Donna Burklo, program director at the Family Kitchen in Bend.

Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang and Bend City Councilor Melanie Kebler spoke at the vigil, which organizers said represented the entire tri-county community and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

“We want to be able to bring people together and really have some moments where we are realizing the humanity of it all," Burklo said. “Homelessness is a cause of death. You know, in each case. was it the leading cause? Maybe, maybe not, but it is a cause of death. It is certainly a health epidemic.”

Below is the full news release from the Homeless Leadership Coalition:

All are invited December 21st from 4:30 – 6p for an outdoor vigil to honor our community members who have died while experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon this year. We will remember those individuals who are known to us and hold space for those we couldn’t reach. The true count locally is unknown, as housing status is not included in data gathered when a person passes on. To date, we have collected the names of 14 individuals who died this year while living houseless.

Gather - distanced and masked – at Pioneer Park in Bend at 4:30p for hot drinks and snacks. The service will begin at 5:15p. We request that for those who are able, please park in the Deschutes County Building parking lot one block away on Wall St.

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the National Coalition for the Homeless “Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day” which began in partnership of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council with three objectives: 1) to shine a bright light on the dark truth that homelessness kills; 2) to ensure that those who died are not forgotten; and 3) to mobilize action to end what is often a death sentence — homelessness. It is the second annual local remembrance event.

In Central Oregon, our Homeless Leadership Coalition members work in Jefferson, Deschutes, and Crook counties and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to prevent and end homelessness by improving regional and cross-system collaboration and coordination so that our communities will have a comprehensive response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.

Longest Night events in other Central Oregon communities include the Annual Solstice Walk at the Sisters Community Labyrinth on December 21st at 6pm, where they will be "Honoring our Losses." The Sisters Community Labyrinth is located on West Hood Avenue, within East Portal, the US Forest Service site where Highway 20 and Highway 242 meet. People are asked to wear a mask and social distance. Please also bring a flashlight or candle.

The event in Bend is a collaboration between Storydwelling, the Homeless Leadership Coalition, REACH, Family Kitchen, Mosaic Medical and Central Oregon FUSE. A livestream option will be available on the Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition Facebook page. If attending in person, please consider parking one block away in the Deschutes County Building parking lot.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.



  1. Central Oregon didn’t have a homeless problem till Phil Chang moved here from New York. May be New York Phil could move back to New York and take the homeless with him.

      1. Phil Chang is not a problem solver. He says he is but in reality he is not. However, he’s very good at kicking the can down the road . People need to do their research before checking that box on their ballot.

    1. TomSawyer ~ What a moronic comment. Aside from the fact that blaming (Phil Chang) is ridiculous.

      I guess you own a home and have never had a stroke of misfortune?

  2. Why doesn’t it mention who the people are?
    “These are human beings that need to be remembered and honored”
    How do you remember and honor someone when their names are not mentioned let alone what each individual went through and how being homeless may have caused them to suffer before they died or even been the cause of death?? If you can’t specify who the people are and their struggles I don’t see how this honors anyone.
    This seems to be more about bringing attention and probably money to an organization than honoring or remembering anyone. How do you honor let alone remember people who are not identified?

      1. Yes and yes, mostly alcohol. Talk with any ICU nurse about their homeless patient load. I tell you, nurses are amazing. They do not discriminate care. The stories they share make me wonder how it’s possible. People are often surprised to learn most ICU patients put themselves there, either by choice or neglect. I don’t have stats but it’s safe to say the percentage of homeless who visit the ICU far exceed the percentage of homeless in the community. Oh the stories. You would not believe what some people do to themselves. Sometimes I don’t know to laugh or cry.

  3. First, did their autopsy results affirm those that died did so due to exposure?

    This past summer the “peacekeepers” loudly proclaimed two homeless elderly men died because of exposure to high temps. The autopsies showed different.

    And certainly an exposure related death might have been the case with this St. Charles ER patient pushed as we recently saw in the news. But St. Charles gets a pass because it is “St Charles”, after all.

    That said – the Social Democratic team of Kebler/Chang is notable. But where is “peacekeeper” Luke Richter? He seems to be avoiding the public light since being video-taped intimidating / attacking a Central Oregon Daily News film crew. Homeless/houseless expert (and some believe clueless) “peacekeeper”, Mike Satcher, appears to have relocated back to Texas, his civil trial in Bend and criminal trial in Crook County on hold.

    2022 is just around the corner – and voters are increasingly tired / fed up with the “Virtue Signaling Police” as represented by Chang/Kebler.

        1. Exactly, otherwise why choose the longest night of the year? But I don’t expect the think the participants to go to any length to think clearly about what they are doing.

          1. “Cause of death” carries specific medical, legal and statistical meaning. “Homelessness” is not within the scope of those definitions no matter how emotionally one might be attached to the issue of homelessness.

            This is simply another attempt to redefine the meaning to suit a political and social agenda. And it’s BS.

  4. Look at all the vultures just salivating to jump in here and peck at the death of another struggling human being! Sick and unworthy of living in such beautiful lands we call Central Oregon! Everyone out there has a different story and this isn’t for us to judge! Jesus was rejected before birth and later crucified by the same cruel and ignorant people! Sad that we have such hate for others in our town and I can only hope that y’all find peace one day. Rest in peace to those we’ve lost and peace of mind to those in our midst’s trying to escape poverty. Onward Bend! We’re better than these hateful posts #lovethyneighbor

    1. Some of the most hard-working and compassionate people here in Central Oregon do so quietly, daily, and without clamor or finger-wagging. To include having been of service to more who have passed away, whether homeless or at home.

      And who have buried them, comforted their loved ones, and then gone quietly back to the work of truly making a difference – and not just talking about it.

      “There’s two kinds of poverty. We have the poverty of material; for example, in some places like in India, Ethiopia and other places, where the people are hungry for a loaf of bread – real hunger. But there is a much deeper, much greater hunger; and that is the hunger for love, and that terrible loneliness and being unwanted, unloved – being abandoned by everybody.” – Mother Teresa

    2. Don’t mistake hating a situation with hating the people who are in it. I feel no ill will for the homeless. I do have ssues with our leaders that kick the can down the road. Throwing a bottle of water at the homeless isn’t helping. Giving them an area to continue to live in filth and squalor isn’t helping them. Untill this is addresses on a national level, it will continue to be a problem. In the meantime, legitimizing and enabling this way of life is a mistake. It runs down neighborhoods, and places.undue strain on our charities and social worker groups. Ship them all to Salem and/or Washington DC.

      1. You “feel no ill will for the homeless” yet your solution is to just “ship them all” to wherever like they are cattle, not human beings. How does that address the issue?

  5. A few of y’all are lacking in compassion. May you never have a stoke of bad luck.

    Enjoy this season of hope from your warm cozy home.

    Happy trails.

  6. You guys are unbelievable always got to have a go to to put someone down. For your information two of them died from heat exhaustetion last summer when it was so hot. Why don’t you guys quit some of these people have families that read this stuff. But most of you are heartless and have no shame.

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