American poet Theodore Roethke once wrote, "In a dark time, the eye begins to see." Today is the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year in Minnesota.

On Thursday, people from across the state walked silently and in solidarity for the 28th Annual Minnesota Homeless March and Service. The event remembers the homeless, formerly homeless and their advocates who died in 2012.

Thursday's service and today's darkness are connected, because with the darkness come low temperatures that drive homeless women, men and children from their cars, tents and abandoned garages into the night to find shelter.

In Hennepin County, an average of 335 families sought shelter each month from July through September 2012. This is the highest number in 12 years and an 86 percent increase since 2006.

In the same three months, 3,318 children have been identified as homeless in the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rosemount, Apple Valley and Eagan school systems combined. Many who are homeless find temporary shelter. Many do not.

The fate of those without shelter includes those who died of hypothermia or unknown causes under bridges and behind Target stores, as well as those who were consumed by accidental fires in unheated garages, or were beaten to death for five dollars.

Their average age: 47.

As residents of the 11th-wealthiest state in America, we have the capacity to help people through such darkness, but we have to choose to open our eyes.