Friday, December 11, 2015

We Remember - We Act

James Alexander
by Jeff Moles

This weekend, Nashville will remember 70 members of its homeless and formerly homeless community who died in 2015. Most of these were people who were well known to us at Room In The Inn. They were and are part of our community, important for being exactly who they were and missed because of the relationships we had with them. To mention just a few:

Arthur “Sal” Peck enjoyed spending time in our art room, and had a great sense of humor. He died
after a bout with cancer.

Jason Vaughan, a young man known as “Cowboy” for the boots and hat he wore, died when he fell from a ledge near where he was camping downtown. His sly smile and love for music will be what we remember.

James Alexander lived in our apartments after he struggled with homelessness. He gave back many hours of volunteer time, cleaning and working in our kitchen.

Thomas Holt
Thomas Holt came to us several years ago, just out of prison and well-conditioned that violent, abusive environment. Over time, we got to know the real Thomas, who enjoyed telling jokes, doing volunteer work, talking to anyone who would listen, and eating more sweets than his doctor advised.

Margie Lucas lived on the streets since she was a young woman, and endured much more than her share of difficulty in life. She succumbed to a long-term illness.

Kenneth Keesee reconnected with family in his later years. A favorite memory of him is a day when we did karaoke at Room In The Inn. Ken was right in the middle of a big circle of people belting out “We Are Family” as loudly as he could. He was killed by a drunk driver this year.

The memorial tree that stands in our main entrance at Room In The Inn bears the names of over 650 homeless individuals who died after struggling with homelessness. For me, its presence inside our front door serves two purposes. It is a reminder of each of the individuals who were so important to us. When we see their names, we remember their faces and stories. But it is also a slap in the face as I walk in the door. It is a reminder that we are responding to an emergency. In a wealthy and growing city, we do not provide enough
affordable housing for people. Most of us go about our lives like nothing is wrong as thousands go without housing. As a result, people experience homelessness and are robbed of years and even decades of time from their lives. The average life expectancy of someone living on the streets is only 48 years. This is not acceptable, and our job will never be done until we ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life of dignity. And these lives saved will not be complete until we offer the gift of belonging and unconditional love.

And so we gather to remember the men and women whose lives have been lost, but may we also resolve to act. As a people, we will never be truly great until each of our neighbors is treated with the dignity that we all deserve.

Members of Nashville's Homeless Community who died in 2015

Arthur “Sal” Peck
Leon Brooks
Bryant Crenshaw
Cardell O’Quinn*
Clarence Leron Murphy
Clyde Hicks
Cris Cumner
Danny Anderson
Danny Costello*
David Milliken
Debra Johnson*
Delores Graham* 
Denise Hixson
Donald Lewis Wilson Jr.
Edward Washington
Gary Silcott*
Gloria Foster
Neice Parrish
Gregory Latimer
Hilton D’Wayne Pitts
Homer Wilson
Howard Bottoms*
James Alexander*
James Carruthers
James Larry Moore, “Alabama”*
James Mitchell
James Primm
Jason Vaughan
Jeff Forgy
John Frakes
John Perry
John Wesley Brown*
Joseph Dies
Jason Vaughan
Joseph Truitt
Kenneth Keesee
Kevin Sullivan
Larry Almond
Leon Brooks
Lloyd Barnes
L.W. Hoffmeyer*
Marcus McLaurine
Marcus Moore
Margie Lucas*
Mary Brown*
Michael Moss Magidovitch
Michael O’Carrol
James Primm
Mike Willers
Neice Parrish*
Norman Wayne Dugger
Olivia Davis
Pamela Zanardi*
Randall Allen White, “Cowboy”
Randy “Jimmy” Wilson
Richard Granbeck*
Richard Nash
Robert McMurtry
Robert Stites*
Roger Loftis
Marcus McLaurine
Ronnie Bunch
Roy Smith
Sally Herz*
Sandy Wilson
Shannon Curtis
Steve Stevens
Tami McKenzie
Terrance Eddings
Thomas Holt*
Timothy Waggoner
William Carter William Crain*
William Edward Brown

*denotes the person was formerly homeless

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