Ceremony pays homage to homeless who perished

Service at downtown church remembers 83 who died this year

December 22, 2005|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Jim Turner hadn't planned to attend last night's Homeless Persons' Memorial Day service in Baltimore. But when he found out yesterday morning that his brother, a schizophrenic who sometimes wandered city streets, had been found frozen to death on a set of rail tracks, he knew he had to come.

Towson resident Turner, his daughter and nephew stood in the pre-dusk chill outside St. Vincent de Paul's Catholic Church with about 40 other people to remember the lives of 83 homeless people -- including John Turner, 59, who the medical examiner's office ruled died of hypothermia. Even though John Turner lived in a group home, he was included because he was without shelter when he died late last week.

As the names of the dead were read aloud, the group repeated the words "We will remember." Behind them, the bells of St. Vincent de Paul rang 83 times, once for each person on the list. Other churches in the city participated as part of the memorial service, which is held every year on or near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

"It's just terrible to know that so many died," said John Turner's niece, Jacqueline Turner, 22, also of Towson.

Others who attended the event, which was sponsored by Stop Homelessness and Reduce Poverty (SHARP), a local coalition of homeless service providers, were also moved by the length of the list. In 2004, there were 80 names; this year there were three more. This month, at least three people have died of hypothermia, according to advocates.

"Our lives are inadequate if we do not solve this solvable problem," said Jeff Singer, president of Health Care for the Homeless and a member of the SHARP coalition.

According to a study released yesterday by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council in observance of the memorial day, homeless people are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than people who have proper housing. The report links the high death rate among homeless men and women to acute and chronic health problems.

Others at the service also condemned the insufficient services and support for homeless men, women and children. In Baltimore, it is estimated that about 3,000 people are homeless on any night.

"It's a shame that right here we stand in the opulence of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and there are homeless men who sleep here every night," said Bishop Douglas I. Miles of the Koinonia Baptist Church.

The service was held in a small park next to St. Vincent de Paul -- a park that many refer to as "bum city" because the homeless have been using it as a camp for years. Church members allow men and women to stay in the park as part of an outreach effort. On Sundays, members invite those who camp in the park inside for coffee and doughnuts.

Two former residents of the park were on the list. Michael E. Wright and Thomasine Evans -- a couple for many years -- had moved away from the small park with the help of a local nonprofit and were living in an apartment in West Baltimore when they were shot and burned in an arson Nov. 18. Police are investigating the incident.

Michael Clash and Dennis Waller were also remembered. They died of hypothermia Dec. 3 after they slept outside in sub-freezing temperatures.

As a result, city health officials have vowed to change the way they operate the "Code Blue" winter weather shelter. The shelter, at 1400 E. Federal St., opens when temperatures are expected to fall below 25 degrees and other dangerous conditions, including snow and high winds, are forecast. It was in operation last night, according to city officials.

City Health Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein said he expects to announce a new operating policy next week. He said that as a result, the cold weather shelter will probably be open more nights during the winter.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

Homeless Memorial

The following 83 people were known by Baltimore homeless service providers to have been homeless in 2005. Some died of chronic illness or acute conditions not treated in time. Some died on the streets or while staying in emergency or transitional shelter. Some spent the last few months of their lives in their own apartments. Some were able to reconnect with family and friends before they died. Most died alone. The list was compiled by Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore for Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.

Antown Arthur

Roevaughn Arthur

Dale Bolesta

Steven Boyd

Paul Brodsky

William Brown

Derrick Bryant

Ronald Bunn

Llewellyn Butler Jr.

Ricardo Calderon

David Cano

German Castillo

Pearl Causion

Ramona Clark-Parker

Mike Clash

Zenither Collins

Gregory Crosby

Shirlena Davis

Rawle "Trini" Edwards

Thomasine Evans

Albert Felder

Charles Fisher

Michael Fleming

Patricia Fletcher

Pamela Freeman

Mary Gaither

Maureen Gebhart

Frazier Gibson

Clifford Goad

Michael Grimes

Nathaniel Gulliver

Dennis Haught

Linton Hicks

Earl Holloway

Victor Jackson

John Johnson

Peggy Johnson

Eldridge Jones

Richard Kaufman

Boris Lee

Larry Leeson

Waverly Luckett

Thomas Manning

Stacey MacDonald

Corey Mason

Steven Matthews

Judith McDuffy

Steven Minerak

Pasquale Mitchell

Wade Moses

Roosevelt Munson

Charles Newby

Ted Nowak

Harry Phillips

Maurice Preston

William Reddy

Frank Richardson

Luther Rucker

Raymond Sakievich

David Scheihing

Willie Sherman

John Shilow

Barry Smith

Joseph Spell

Albert Stevenson

Carl Surland

Samuel Sweetman

Mischelle Thomas

Richard Tillman

Carolyn Toney

Angela Townes

John Turner

Raymond Van Kiri

Dennis Waller

Frederick Williams

Linda Williams

Bobby Wilson

Joseph Wittenberg

Andre Wright

Michael Wright

"John Doe"

"John Doe"

"John Doe"

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