Memo­rial bids fi­nal farewell to home­less

Ser­vice re­mem­bers those who might oth­er­wise be for­got­ten

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kate San­tich

Clark Ja­cobs lived in a bea­tup, bur­gundy-red van that ran just well enough for him to heat the en­gine block so he could cook on it. He knew how many min­utes it took to fry ba­con, and how many more for a pork chop.

Ja­cobs told peo­ple he had once been a hus­band and father and engi­neer, but that his drink­ing ended that life and be­gan the fi­nal one — in an Or­lando park­ing lot near a com­mu­nity ser­vice agency where he vol­un­teered faith­fully.

“He was such a kind in­di­vid­ual,” said Nina Yon, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Chris­tian Shar­ing Center in Long­wood, who had be­friended him. “Even though he was home­less, he was al­ways help­ing oth­ers.”

On Tues­day, at the Cathe­dral Church of St. Luke in down­town Or­lando, Ja­cobs’ name was among the 130 Or­ange, Osce­ola and Semi­nole county res­i­dents read at an an­nual Cen­tral Florida Home­less Per­sons’ Memo­rial Ser­vice — a re­mem­brance of those who died in the past year and might oth­er­wise be for­got­ten.

More than 200 peo­ple at­tended, most of them strangers to the de­ceased.

“It is im­por­tant to speak the names and re­mem­ber those who, although less for­tu­nate than some, were part of our com­mu­nity and de­serve to be ac­knowl­edged,” said the former sex­ton of Or­lando’s Green­wood Ceme­tery, Don Price. “Some­one once said that every­one dies twice: first, when you take your last breath, and sec­ond, when your name is spo­ken for the last time.”

IDig­nity — an Or­lando-based non­profit that helps the home­less get the le­gal doc­u­ments needed to land work, stay in a

shel­ter or ap­ply for ben­e­fits — holds the ser­vice each year near the Win­ter Sol­stice, the long­est night of the year. It is a recog­ni­tion of the dif­fi­cul­ties that night­time brings the home­less, and for many, it is the only pub­lic ac­knowl­edge­ment of their pass­ing.

This year, there was Erika Stan­hope, 60, and Joshua Ri­et­tie, just 21. There were cashiers and car­pen­ters. There were sons and daugh­ters and some­times fa­thers and moth­ers. There were a hand­ful — An­drea and Nancy and John “Snowy” — whose last names were not known, even in death.

All their names were read aloud. And for each, some­one in the sanc­tu­ary lit a can­dle.

Ti­mothy McKin­ney, the CEO of the non­profit United Global Outreach, lit one for Stephen “Big­foot” Canada, a tow­er­ing man who wore a size-17 shoe and spent much of his 53 years camped in the woods of east Or­ange County.

“His toes were just man­gled be­cause, from the time he was teenager on, he usu­ally could only find size 14 in the stores, so that’s what he crammed his feet into,” McKin­ney said. “He was like our Humpty Dumpty. No mat­ter how much we tried, we couldn’t put Steve back to­gether. He suf­fered so much trauma from sex­ual abuse as a child and even do­mes­tic vi­o­lence while he was home­less and a lot of sub­stance abuse. I think he’s prob­a­bly been hit by three cars in the decade I’ve known him, you know, while rid­ing his bike.”

In his fi­nal months, dy­ing of liver fail­ure, Canada was taken into the home of a cou­ple. “At least he didn’t have to die out in the woods,” McKin­ney said.

Clark Ja­cobs was not so for­tu­nate. Liv­ing on a monthly check from an out-of-state brother, he parked near the low-cost gro­cery at United Against

Poverty in south Or­lando, vol­un­teer­ing and turn­ing away of­fers of help. Yon, who worked at that agency un­til this spring, of­fered to cook his food in her of­fice mi­crowave and, on an­other oc­ca­sion, wanted to buy him a fry­ing pan.

No, he said. He had too many things al­ready.

“Men­tal [ill­ness] was an is­sue for him, but we didn’t see it at first,” she said.

On an early morn­ing in June, about to be evicted from his park­ing spot, Ja­cobs, 58, walked to the nearby train tracks, stepped be­tween the rails, and waited for the im­pact.

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Par­tic­i­pants in the Cen­tral Florida Home­less Per­sons’ Memo­rial Ser­vice bow their heads in prayer Tues­day at the Cathe­dral Church of St. Luke on Tues­day.

JOE BUR­BANK/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Names are listed in the pro­gram dur­ing the Cen­tral Florida Home­less Per­sons’ Memo­rial Ser­vice on Tues­day.

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