When death takes a homeless person, there are cold facts. If they die walking home from a store alone, the coroner will eventually pick them up and take the remains to the morgue.
The deceased may have friends, but they often do not have any next of kin to claim them. They usually have a tent and possessions somewhere, even friends, or a spouse. No one in an official capacity will know about these things. No one will be going to their address to tell their loved ones the tragic news.
Oftentimes, because homeless people rarely have credentials like driver’s licenses, there will be no identification unless they are well known to police. It could be an exceptionally long time before a positive identification will give them a name.
When death comes to a homeless camp, someone must locate a phone and make a call to have the authorities visit the encampment, often hidden and illegal. In order to allow medics in the area, the authorities have to take measures for their safety. The police must navigate the camp for safety risks and identify the people who are there. They must figure out the layout, avoid all the dangerous items, and the unsanitary nature of the camp for their own safety. This causes delay and often hysteria on the part of those hoping that the person with fast attention will recover.
Once the EMT’s and paramedics can access and begin CPR, precious time has expired. Everyone is aware of that. No one is comfortable at this point. Everyone is facing the awful truth that this place is where so many things are potential killers, yet everyone is wanting this to be that one time when the patient recovers.
When Edward “Popeye” Peacock died on November 7 at a location near a freeway bridge between Modesto and Ceres, he was a well-known vagrant, character, and friend to many, but not all. He had leadership ability amongst those who occupy the illegal encampments. He watched over those who were defenseless.
During the time he became more ill and unable to care for himself, his partner Lacey was sent to jail. Christina then became his helper. She had him sleeping nearby while she watched for signs signaling it was time to call an ambulance. She had a cell phone with minutes. When Popeye began to cough and fail, she made that call and waited the extra time it takes to get the authorities into the camp.
She saw the awful things that occur when the body is rejecting life. She tried her best to do CPR or something to save his life. The next part, when the medics do what they do, and then drive off, is harsh. They have the body of a man these people know intimately well, some for more than 20 years.
No one will pick up his body from the morgue. No one will come and collect his valuables. Christina will now look after Little Sherry, a developmentally disabled woman Popeye watched out for. There will be no funeral. Christina will also have to break the news to others who were absent while this happened.
This is death in a homeless camp. A friend and I visited to honor this death. We know that everyone must grieve and share memories, to honor and remember him. They need to speculate, articulate, and ask questions. They need to describe the scene and how it was for them. Sometimes there is that one person who suspects foul play. Fortunate people with homes can sit on comfortable chairs in warm homes and share their grief with visitors who stop to pay respects. Not so among the homeless.
In Popeye’s case, his disoriented friends are unsure of how to tell his incarcerated female partner. Those who did not see him die or even know he was sick could be thinking he will recover in the hospital. Others are thinking their turn is next, but for sure no one has a comfortable chair and a box of Kleenex, and no one is visiting to pay respects.
Cassandra L Mitchell says
It is very sad that this is the way it usually is when it comes to being homeless. I unfortunately know all to well the struggles they face. I was homeless for 6 years and have experienced the death of friends first hand. It’s heartbreaking cause you become somewhat of a family. And when someone passes it is hard cause most of the time there isn’t anyway for them to express the way that felt towards that person. It is very sad.
Mason Arnesen says
Instead of writing about the homeless. Why don’t they do something to help them out? I was homeless for 3 months till the people on the streets got me on my feet and put back with my family. If it wasn’t for the people on the streets, I wouldn’t of made it where I am. So why not do the same?
Lou Valero says
Thank you, Mason Arnesen:
I can appreciate why you said what you said in your first two (3) sentences. Being homeless, or having been homeless, it must be even more frustrating, that the Valley Citizen does many posts about the houseless/homeless. It may appear like just talk and little, or no, action. I can assure you that Eric Caine, and Frank Ploof, and multiple others do what they can to put an end this crisis, or at the very least, do what they can to make a large dent in the crisis. It is though, exactly, because no one can end this crisis alone that they team up and do what they know to do. Sometimes that can be writing posts to keep before the valley citizens that this crisis is not going away by itself.
I get frustrated, wanting to know “WHY” a city comprised of many, many thousands of citizens, and a county comprised of even more thousands of citizens, have not applied MORE EFFORT towards getting MORE HOMELESS PEOPLE “on” their “feet and put back with…family” or “put back” in a home. I am thankful that some have been assisted to be in a home, again.
But we all have to own up to the fact that the number assisted back into a home, is not enough. The assistance is not fast or robust enough. The number will not be enough until everyone who wants to be in a home, is physically inside a safe home. I apologize for the awkwardness of this statement. I do not believe anyone wants to be living without a home. Even the most independent type of persons, who enjoy the outdoors, more than others, want the option of having a home. They just do not want others making up their minds for them. They want to be given the freedom to make decisions about what a home consists of.
It is to your last three (3) sentences that I want to bring attention to. You point out to readers that “if it wasn’t for the people on the streets, I wouldn’t of made it where I am.” That is one of the most powerful statements that I have read here in the Valley Citizen. And, believe me, I have read many powerful statements.
What I found to be powerful was that you state that it was “the people on the streets” who got you on your feet and assisted you to be back with your family. Unfortunately, somehow those who are not homeless/houseless seem to think that those who are homeless are not capable of lifting one another back up. I thank you for calling attention to the fact that: that is a HUGE UNTRUTH, a HUGE LIE people choose to think or believe.
THERE IS A FORM OF OPPRESSION
It is public humiliation.
THERE IS AN EVIL which most of us condone and are even guilty of:
INDIFFERENCE TO EVIL.
WE THE PEOPLE remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done TO OTHER PEOPLE.
INDIFFERENCE TO EVIL is more insidious than evil itself; IT IS MORE UNIVERSAL, MORE CONTAGIOUS, MORE DANGEROUS.
ERIC CAINE WAS REFERRED TO AS A PROPHET, here is WHY: A prophets’ great contribution to humanity was, and STILL IS, the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful. LET WE THE PEOPLE REMEMBER.
The prophet is a person who suffers, though generally NOT first hand, the harms done to others. Wherever a crime is committed, it is AS IF the prophet were the victim and the prey. The prophet’s angry words cry. The wrath of God is a lamentation. HE IS THE GOD OF PATHOS (a quality that evokes pity or sadness).
This is WHY, Eric Caine, and people, such as, Christi Zent, wrote, “about the homeless.” This is WHY and HOW, they are able, to “do something to help them out.” NOT THAT THIS IS THE ONLY WAY they have helped.
INDIFFERENCE TO the EVIL, someone named, HOMELESSNESS, is WHY and HOW, too many of us, do “NOT DO THE SAME”, as OUR DEAR “people on the streets”, DID do for you, OUR DEAR Mason Arnesen.
I sympathize with ALL THE PEOPLE ON THE STREETS, as do you, MASON, and as do others, such as Eric Caine, and, Christi Zent, and especially, as do, ALL OF OUR DEAR FRIENDS, and STRANGERS, who live, who have LIVED, and who have DIED, “on the streets. SHAMEFULLY we have left you to live “on the streets,” left many to DIE there.
THANK YOU, Mason, for pointing your question, directly in the face of each of us, Valley Citizens, precisely where it needs to be: “WHY NOT DO THE SAME?”
I, MYSELF, MUST CONFESS THAT I HAVE “NOT,” yet, been successful while in the process of doing “THE SAME.” It amounts to the same. We The People NEED TO CONFESS where we have fallen short.
I KNOW I WANT TO READ THE STORY OF HOW YOU GOT ON YOUR FEET AND GOT PUT BACK WITH YOUR FAMILY, IF YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO SHARE…
Again, thank you, Mason, your family, and “the people on the streets” who had a part…
Please, when you have no idea who the author is and what he or she does and has done, criticism is not warranted!
I work with homeless and we do have a memorial of homeless people that have passed on.
Yes it’s tomorrow at the salvation army shelter at 6pm in honor of those that have passed in our homeless community there is also a Facebook page it’s called not forgotten
Sarah Z. says
When it comes to people who need help, you have always gone the extra mile. You do much more than write. That said, thank you for writing this. Thank you for honoring Christina’s compassion, for listening to her, allowing her to put into words some of what she experienced as Popeye’s friend. I know she was grateful to you.
To the author: Thank you for writing this piece honoring the death of a community member. Yes, houseless folks are a part the community!
And thank you for saving me from homelessness years ago. I wouldn’t be where I an, or even alive, without your kindness, generosity, and love.