His friends described him as a senior, approximately in his early 60’s in age, Caucasian, very quiet, kept to himself most of the time, did not speak very often, unassuming….a man who had been homeless for about a year. He was particularly vulnerable because of his age and, after being homeless for a year, his health had deteriorated. He should have been rescued, not persecuted. He should have been saved, not forgotten. He should have been driven to a shelter, not allowed to sleep in the rain. Instead he was found dead in front of Peet's Coffee on Shattuck and Kittredge on Thursday morning at about 7:30 a.m. on February 6, 2014 having died of exposure to the rain and cold during the night.
We walked by him dozens of times choosing to ignore him rather than see the silent plea in his eyes. He could have been a former electrical engineer who had been laid off, a construction worker who lost his job during the housing market downturn, a factory worker whose job was shipped over seas when his employer decided to downsize and save money by hiring foreign workers to do his job. A victim of the economic downturn he lost his home, his car and his family. We became his family and we failed him.
As a member of our family he was our father, our grandfather, our uncle, our neighbor and our friend. In the Sundance case, the California Supreme Court said we are all part of a society…in a sense, a family. As such we need to take care of our most vulnerable such as our senior citizens neglected, hungry and dying in the rain.
We are in the midst of a national disaster where millions of people are out of work, have lost their homes and are hungry. As in any national disaster law enforcement should be protecting us, not persecuting us. This man was not allowed to sleep under the eve at Peet’s Coffee and was forced to sleep in the rain where he eventually died. Our police officers should have taken him to a shelter, not run him off or threatened to arrest him for trying to get out of the rain. Even the California Supreme Court recognized that this is not only good law but good policy…the humane thing to do.