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Susan Egeland liked to play board games, and she was adamant about one in particular.

"She thought everybody should know how to play cribbage," said Mary Arlet, of Missoula.

Arlet, now staying at the Poverello Center, met Egeland there the only other  time Arlet found herself without a home, and she called the cribbage maestro the best friend she'd ever known.

Friday evening, the longest night of the year, Arlet showed up to the Missoula County Courthouse to honor Egeland, who was among 16 known people who died in Missoula this year without a home.

In a ceremony with song, prayer, and the toll of a bell for every name, community leaders also called on those in attendance, including themselves, to recommit to the goal to end homelessness in Missoula and to treat others with compassion.

"Be swift to love and make haste to be kind," said County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.

"These are people with names. We need to call them by their name," said Theresa Williams, coordinator of Missoula's plan to end homelessness.

In front of the courthouse sat a pair of shoes for every person who died: Madison Allen, Clifford Begay, Ron Clark, Michael Doran, Joseph Dorn, Jim Laufenberger, Wayne Munnell, Thomas "Wade" Schell, Michael Schumacher, Roger Snyder, Andrew Sweet, Charles Whitmer, Andy Wilder, Jerry Wright, Dennis Yuhazs and Egeland.

"These shoes represent moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and they shouldn't perish on our streets," said Mayor John Engen.

***

Danielle LaPlant has a home now, but she remembers times when she had to sleep outside, and she shared some of her experiences as part of the memorial. 

Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation, she once woke up in a canvas tent in a blizzard with no more wood for the stove. Her family finally got into "HUD housing" through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but she found herself without a home again later in life as she struggled with mental illness and the death of her father.

"I went and slept in the trees," LaPlant said.

In Missoula, she received help through the project to address the problem, "Reaching Home: Missoula's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness."

"Right now, I finally have a place, and it's nice to go home," LaPlant said.

In a call to action, Susan Hay Patrick pledged to remember that people experiencing homelessness are not "the homeless," a monolithic group. Patrick, CEO of United Way of Missoula County, said neighbors without homes are not problems to be fixed, but people with their own heartbreak and joy.

Asking participants to pledge along with her, Patrick said she would refrain from blaming others for homelessness and instead use her privilege to help.

"With a different hand, I could be them, they could be me," Patrick said.

***

Lindsey Crouch didn't know Egeland well and even clashed with her at times, but she said Egeland's passing left a mark on her anyway. Crouch, too, is staying at the Poverello Center, Missoula's homeless shelter and soup kitchen.

"I miss seeing her play Scrabble with the other Susan I know," Crouch said.

Sandra Bowen said Egeland always made her days brighter, and she had a "heart of gold." Egeland was a large woman, tall with big bones, and she also could intimidate her friends when necessary. When Bowen wanted to get high, she said Egeland would tell her no, and she could be persuasive.

"If I didn't [listen to Egeland], she'd beat my butt," Bowen said.

The program for the third annual homeless memorial service in Missoula named the following sponsors: United Way, The Pov, Western Montana Mental Health Center, Homeword, Open Aid Alliance, City of Missoula, Missoula County, and the Union Gospel Mission of Missoula. The program also identified the At-Risk Housing Coalition as a presenter and noted First United Methodist Church would host a dinner and hygiene drive after the memorial.

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