For some, homelessness ends tragically. They simply die homeless. If you imagine that living homeless is hard, you should view it through our eyes when someone dies homeless.
You have to track down the next of kin and often times that is hard; sometimes you don’t find them at all. One of those cases still haunts me because we tracked down his family and found where he lived, where they moved, what school he attended, and all that did little good because not one of them lived there anymore. He is in a pauper’s grave and someday I will give his family a file that talks a little bit about his life.
Every year, we read the names of those who died homeless at the homeless memorial sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and locally done in conjunction with Jesus Cares at Exit 0 at their feeding site. This year we lost quite a few — more than any other year in our history, over nine people ended their homelessness through death.
Cash died from cancer. He was the first person to ever die in the shelter because he refused to leave or to be hospitalized. Adult Protective Services, his family, all of us tried to convince him but he wanted to die “at home.” Jo, a paranoid schizophrenic with a family who had disowned her, died from heart failure in the hospital. Michael had liver problems. Gene died from multiple physical illnesses — she died trying to help others as well. Lisa died from a drug overdose in her new home. Cincinnati John died from alcoholism. Tommy was hit by a car on his moped; Bob was housed and we still haven’t found his family, and then Lee, who died from health problems that plagued him most of his life.