By Andrew Kramer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Thursday isn’t just the first day of winter. It’s also Homeless Memorial Day.

In Philadelphia, several hundred people gathered at Thomas Paine Plaza for a candlelit ceremony.

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“First day of winter, the longest night, and we choose this time to remember those who were homeless or formerly homeless who have passed away during this year,” explains Benjamin Mitchell, who helps organize this event each year.

Names of those who died in 2017 were read aloud.

“At the last count I heard there was over 270,” Mitchell says.

And by having events like this all throughout the country…

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“Hopefully it’ll motivate and unify people into doing something to help us end homelessness,” adds Mitchell, “because it is possible.”

Andrew McCarty attended, candle in hand, the homeless on his mind.

“I’m glad to see people coming together from different communities, because I think that’s very important as we move forward ending homelessness and working with poverty in our city,” he says.

Sadie Flesher, who works at a homeless shelter, was also there. His reason for attending…

“I guess mostly just awareness that people realize how many names were off tonight so we can help prevent this in the future and make that number smaller,” he says.

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Speakers also took to the podium to share their own, personal stories of how homelessness impacted them.​