TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - People of all faiths gathered at Evergreen Cemetery's Pima County lot to remember and pray for the more than 250 people who died homeless in Southern Arizona's streets and deserts this year.
Peggy Hutchison, CEO of the Primavera Foundation, said Friday afternoon that it's important to hold such a service because the holidays are all about family and many of the area's homeless likely died alone.
"That person could be a brother or a sister or a friend or a neighbor," she said. "That's what surprises people."
Patty Valera shared her story with the crowd. Her father, who lived on the streets, was assaulted and later died in a hospital. She said Tucson is a welcoming community, but not everyone is understanding of the men and women who sleep outside.
"Understand that those who are experiencing homelessness are human beings," said Valera. "They have a name, they have family members."
Hutchison said that local agencies are working well with businesses and governments, but there's more work ahead of them. She said anyone can volunteer or donate, but it's just as important to contact elected leaders to consider policy.
"It's not enough," said Hutchison. "Shame on us that we have anyone who is experiencing homelessness even though they're working."
Primavera Foundation estimates there are roughly 5,000 people sleeping in the streets of Southern Arizona on any given night.