Homeless Dead Mourned

Gordon Scott died of a massive heart attack while he was standing at the Temple and Elm bus stop. He was only in his 50s; he’d been homeless for years.

His life and his suffering – along with that of at least 36 other homeless men and women who died in our town during 2013 – were marked in moving outdoor ceremonies behind Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green.

Allan Appel PhotoThe homeless memorial service was one of thousands being held across the country Saturday in an effort led by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, said Kyle Pedersen, a deacon with the church and one of the organizers of the event.

“It’s always held at the winter solstice, the longest night and shortest day, so we join those who spend their nights on the streets,” Pedersen said.

Bob Hannan said he had had been a friend of Scott and had shared pizza with him many a night under a warm stairway. Hannan and some 30 others gathered on crunchy snow behind the church as psalms were read, prayer flags bearing the name of the gone were hung, and a lone bagpiper, Gary Snowbeck, played a dirge-like military retreat “Balmoral” and then “Amazing Grace.”

“We gather to remember those who are faceless and nameless in our society,” said Rev. Julie Kelsey, a Yale School of Divinity professor. Kelsey serves as chaplain to Chapel on the Green, a mission to the homeless and a co-sponsor of Saturday’s service.

Psalm 23 was read. Following that, the kaddish,  the Jewish prayer for the dead, was recited by Rabbi Megan Doherty, associate rabbi at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

Several homeless people gathered round to participate. They added names to the prayers.

Hannan said Scott’s ashes were spread in Hawaii, near where his mother’s ashes lay after Scott died in the third week of April. “He was a sweetheart, a loyal friend. I wish there were more people like him. The world would be better,” Hanna said. “He’s home now.”

Columbus House Executive Director Alison Cunningham said the most recent point-in-time homeless count, done last year, showed an estimated 737 people living on the streets in New Haven.

She estimated about 30 of those “had passed” during the course of the year.

She said the age of death of homeless people is a lot younger than of those who have shelter. The average is in the 50s, she said. Gordon Scott was 53.

The service ended with “We Shall Overcome.” United Church on the Green’s Rev. John Gage extended an invitation to all to come by his house of worship: “There’s more soup than you can possibly eat.”

On the way over, several people stopped to pick up winter clothing items at the free market (pictured) organized by Marcey Jones and Jesse Hardy with Jesse’s Homeless Outreach Project.

Other sponsors of the service included the Greater New Haven Opening doors, The Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Hill Health Center, Abraham’s Tent, and Interfaith Cooperative Ministries.


Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: CreatingUrgency on December 23, 2013  9:29am

You don’t need to create a sense of urgency for New Haven, Garth. Here’s something that has a sense of urgency. How can schools help those who are homeless? How can schools give kids the tools they need to either remain indoors or survive outdoors?

posted by: robn on December 23, 2013  11:55am

Philadelphia   500   1,547,607   1 in 3,095
Miami-Dade County   868   2,591,035   1 in 2,985
New York City   3,262   8,336,697   1 in 2,555
Chicago   1,634   2,714,856   1 in 1,661
Seattle/King County   2,587   2,007,440   1 in 775
Los Angeles   26,297   9,962,789   1 in 378
San Francisco   2,942   825,863   1 in 254
New Haven   737   130,741   1 in 177

Source: Project Home (Philadelphia)

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 23, 2013  12:04pm

posted by: robn on December 23, 2013 10:55am

Philadelphia   500   1,547,607   1 in 3,095
Miami-Dade County   868   2,591,035   1 in 2,985
New York City   3,262   8,336,697   1 in 2,555
Chicago   1,634   2,714,856   1 in 1,661
Seattle/King County   2,587   2,007,440   1 in 775
Los Angeles   26,297   9,962,789   1 in 378
San Francisco   2,942   825,863   1 in 254
New Haven   737   130,741   1 in 177

Source: Project Home (Philadelphia)

Hey robin.Do you blame the unions for this.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on December 23, 2013  12:05pm

Jim Ferarra, pictured above, is a great neighbor. He has planted trees with us a few times on Upper State Street.  Somehow it feels ironic to call someone with out a home a neighbor but I guess it makes the case that the neighborhood is his home.

posted by: robn on December 23, 2013  12:12pm

3/5 aka Scrooge

What’s usually to blame is substance abuse and/or mental illness. I assumed that the other metropolitan areas have the same issue of surrounding suburbs offering no assistance, but I’m still surprised to see out ratio so high.

posted by: TheMadcap on December 23, 2013  12:15pm

Those numbers are just wrong, or may be misleading. They may be the unsheltered homeless population for each city while the homeless in general is counted for New Haven. For example, there’s over 50,000 homeless people in NYC just using the city’s shelters alone

And in Phili they estimated 12,000 individuals for one year

posted by: Dwightstreeter on December 23, 2013  12:43pm

We have a crisis, but where are the resources to do more?

This used to be a caring country. Individuals and some institutions do what they can.

Clearly we are not doing enough.


posted by: robn on December 23, 2013  2:40pm


Project Home notes that 12,000 experience homelessness, but they aren’t necessarily all homeless at the same time (relevant for resource allocation). But you have a good point; the NYC number seems absurdly low. The Coalition For The Homeless in NYC estimates 60,000 in NYC which would make their ratio more like 1:138.

posted by: Charl on December 23, 2013  3:02pm

737 people living on the streets in New Haven?!

36 homeless people died in 2013 so far?!

This is such a sad statistic.  How can the city do nothing for these people?  It would be a terrific way for Yale to get involved, especially with all the different programs and degrees they offer-  use some undergrad and graduate ingenuity, fund them, and make some new programs to get these people more stable and situated in their lives.

If the city will not do it, then perhaps Yale can. 

New Haven has such a visible homeless population, it is so sad.  I have interacted with many of the homeless people I see, and they have never been mean spirited or nasty with me.  Often they are intelligent, and nearly always they have untreated mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues.  The homeless who live “on the streets” often gripe about NOT wanting to be inside the shelters, for whatever reasons-  unsafe inside, too many personal belongings stolen in the past, violence within shelters, rampant drug use within shelters, etc.  I am sure there are also many reasons such as -  not wanting a curfew, wanting to be able to freely move and use drugs/alcohol in the open, etc.

I asked a homeless “street” person a few months ago how he dealt with the 3 foot Nemo snow storm.  He didnt even blink, was unfazed.  He stated, simply, when there is a lot of snow, you look for the giant mounds of snow in big parking lots, on street corners, etc.  Then, you go in and carve out an igloo.  In fact, he said he seemed to even PREFER to live inside the igloo, although I never got specific reasons why.

New Haven, the highly visible homeless population is presently your greatest shame.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 23, 2013  7:27pm

New Haven attracts the underserved populations of the entire region because it has comparatively more services and much better access to those services than surrounding towns. The City cannot possibly be expected to adequately serve these populations on its own - even with State funding. This is a metropolitan problem that requires a region-wide solution.