Yesterday, a 67 year old man passed away quietly in our largest homeless program. A program that houses 137 lives while we actively look for permanent housing for them. He was part of a short term respite program. Respite from the streets after a hospitalization. He died seemingly peacefully in his sleep. He died in doors. Not outside in the blistering cold that is mostly too cold for us Californians.
I went to support the staff as they quietly went through protocol and we all sat over the body, two Oakland Police Officers outside the room, awaiting the coroner. This man had no possessions. He was in bed in a shared room. I noticed he had brand new socks on from a recent donation to BACS.
We tried to call next of kin or an emergency contact – but there was no one to call. This gentleman died inside. I kept telling myself that. As if that is the standard we have for our poor.
This man fit the common demographic that makes up almost 80 percent of who BACS serves: senior citizen, African American, male, extremely poor. With other populations, if this occurred, I would expect a news van outside wanting to capture the story. I do not expect the same with this man. We have a forgotten society. In the place that was built on the backs of this same man. Oakland was built as the City where this man wouldn’t be forgotten.
If you read this, ask yourself what you can do to ensure that black lives matter, like this gentleman. Because he died inside.
-Jamie Almanza, BACS Executive Director, January 27