Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice ...
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. — By Robert Frost
Tuesday morning around 3. A homeless man rides in the back of a police car. An officer tries to find him a warm place out of the killing cold. Temperatures are in the low 30s — freezing. Then, shelter from the bitter cold is turned down. Does the officer know of the warming centers?
By default, another shelter. Homeless man gets out of cruiser. He wears no shoes, only flip-flops. He collapses in front of shelter. Man gets up. Man goes down again. A call to 9-1-1 goes in. Twelve minutes later, paramedics arrive — 12 minutes. Man is assessed. Man is left at shelter. Staff assists man to walk in. Feet and hands are literally blue. They try rubbing them. Warm shower is decided upon. Man is walked into shower.
But Death lurks there with a heart attack on the end of his staff. Man’s heart gives out. He is critical now. Again 9-1-1 is called. At least 10 minutes expire before a policeman arrives, followed minutes later by paramedics. He is bagged on the way out. He is alive — barely.
Are the police in the loop of the warming centers? Are protocols in place for them to look for the vulnerable homeless in life-threatening weather conditions? Real life and death questions — decisions. The man clings to life. He is 57 years old. Someone’s dad? Someone’s grandfather? A veteran who fought for his country?
It’s been two weeks since G, died and still no word from the authorities. The homeless are sure a hush to judgment is taking place — a replay of the Ross Stiles case.
Ross was a crippled homeless man who died after being assaulted by two vicious men. His case was closed after only five weeks even before the coroner had issued his finding. Now a woman dies a horrible death with troubling questions remaining unanswered.
To help hurting friends find peace and to see that justice is done, the police should hold a press conference and tell the community the status of the investigation. The autopsy needs to be made public. Why didn’t G run for help? Why she didn’t attempt to flee the horror of fire begs question. And we, as a community need to reflect that this poor woman, doing the best she could tried to find whatever makeshift shelter she could to protector herself from the cruel elements — a search that led to her death.
She died when the shelters were not only full, but also due to regulations running at half capacity. We need to honor G’s passing. Justice should be for all not just those who can afford it and are privileged enough not to live outside. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — where is G’s constitutional rights?
— Ken Williams has been a social worker for the homeless for the past 30 years. His writings and opinions reflect only his personal views. He does not speak as a representative for or on behalf of any organization with which he may be affiliated. He is the author of China White and Shattered Dreams, A Story of the Streets. He has just completed his first nonfiction book, There Must Be Honor.