RIP, 5’10” caucasian male

Allen got a call at 4:45pm yesterday, and he contacted the police.

By the time I was aware of the situation, the coroner had come and gone.

Our neighbor, Stevens, who knows some of the regulars who hang around the building, didn’t recognize the man.

5’10” Caucasian male. That’s all I know. Under a blanket, surrounded by empty liquor bottles, on the patio, right outside of the apartment where I lived for four years. Right outside of fellowship hall.

Allen placed flowers on the patio in memoriam.


Over my years living in that apartment I got to know a number of people who drifted onto and off of that patio. I argued and laughed with and mothered and threatened various people who claimed that shared space. I prayed with and invited into worship and called the police on various people, too.


I know that homelessness can shorten lives.


I know that the street community can be powerful in supporting one another and that alliances can shift and people can be loners or loners for a certain amount of time.


I know that a lot of the people who have sought shelter around the church/peace center have been avoiding the drug corridor a couple of blocks away, or at least avoiding it for a while, since we’re slightly off the beaten path, and that often the people avoiding the drug corridor at that moment in their life might be without a community in that moment. But they usually drift away and (I like to believe) back to the family they’ve created, other than the occasional intentional loner.


I don’t know if 5’10” Caucasian male was a temporary loner or a permanent one. I don’t know whether he died of alcohol poisoning like the coroner declared on site or if they’ll find different information later.


I find myself thinking right now that everyone should be allowed to die supported, and there is a dull ache in me that he did not. The work I do for affordable housing and the work I do to build community seem less abstract today, but they also feel too damned slow.


What I do know today is that someone departed this life on land we sanctified in the name of peace during an interfaith spiritual blessing of the land and building last March. I hope that he knew some peace in this life, and I pray that he has peace in the next.

5 thoughts on “RIP, 5’10” caucasian male

  1. Oh, Sandhya. You are such a pastor (and that is a compliment). This, too, is violence, and a reminder that your two jobs are connected at the root.


  2. Thanks for sharing. My heart goes out to him, the family (he may or may not have had), the Oakland Peace Center, and all the passersby who ever greeted him with kindness.


  3. About four years ago, I had a police detective show up on my doorstep. He held my business card and said, “We found this on John Doe who died in alley. Do you know this guy.”

    I knew him. He was Tom Waters and member of the church. I loved that guy. He changed the church and set us up for some great ministry. He allowed me to see homelessness in a new way. I got weary of Tom’s alcoholism and the smell of homelessness. However, I loved that guy and appreciated him. He died on my birthday, alone in an alley. I cried for him and some days I go back into that alley to talk to him.

    You know he had a name and you know the name, sister.
    “Child of God”

    He has birth family who has grieved his life for some time. Nobody winds up on the street and the family celebrates.


  4. Perhaps that sanctified ground is why he came there to die. He may not have been quite so alone… Thanks for this story Pastor.


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