Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Memorial Friday for unidentified homeless who died here

Forty-five unidentified homeless men and women who died here, known only as Jane and John Does, will be honored at 4 p.m. Friday with a memorial service at Evergreen Cemetery.

Primavera Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides services to the homeless, presents the memorial service each year at the county’s burial plot for the indigent.

The aim is to bring attention to homelessness in Tucson, as well as to honor those who died with no home or family to bury them, said Joy Wilcox, advocacy coordinator for Primavera.

Indigents are buried or cremated at public expense by the county.

Wilcox said the memorial service is part of a national event to honor the homeless taking place in cities around the country Friday.

“It is such a shame some people don’t have the luxury to have the same sort of celebration of their lives as people who are housed would,” Wilcox said.

“We are giving them the respect (in death) that they didn’t get in life,” she said.

“It’s an invisible population. It’s really easy not to think about it.”

From November 2007 to October 2008, 159 people, including some children, were cremated or buried by the county.

During that same period in 2004 and 2005, 231 indigent men, women and children were buried by the county.

It is Raymond Rodriguez’s job in the county public fiduciary’s office to try to locate relatives who can claim the bodies of those who can be identified. Rodriguez said he may find relatives, but they tell him they don’t have the resources to bury their dead.

Military service members whose bodies come to the attention of the public fiduciary are entitled to be buried at a national cemetery. Fifteen former service members who died in 2007-08 were buried at the national veterans cemetery in Sierra Vista, Rodriguez said.

Six children, including some who died at birth, were buried in 2007-08 in the county’s plot at West Fort Lowell and North Oracle roads.

Fifty-three adults who were identified but had no known next of kin were buried there, too.

Last year at this time, just 16 John and Jane Does were buried in the county plot. Rodriguez said he doesn’t know why the number nearly tripled.

Wilcox said the memorial service is also an opportunity for people to donate canned goods, blankets and jackets for the homeless, through Primavera.

To volunteer to help with the homeless through Primavera, call Jenny Cowen, 623-5111 Ext. 102.

To donate money, contact Deborah Dale, development officer, at 623-5111 Ext. 107.

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