By Adam Schneider, Community Relations Coordinator at HCH
On Friday, December 21, we will remember the men and women who are known to have died this year and who, in life, lacked a regular place to stay at a public memorial services in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This year I lost a friend and client named Tony.
Tony was a survivor.
He survived abandonment and abuse early in his life. He survived 35 years in the carnival business. He survived on the streets after being stranded in Baltimore when his van, his dog, and all of his belongings stolen from him in 2009. He survived the “Snow-pocalypse” in a tent he reinforced and insulated with cardboard and duct tape.
Tony died this October, he survived long enough to see substantial improvements in his health: after being diagnosed with diabetes, he maintained a strict diet and lost nearly 100 pounds. He survived long enough to get his own apartment in Las Vegas, NV – where he’d long hoped and strived to be.
Shortly before his death, Tony sent me a photo of himself (the picture on the right) –standing in his living room, wearing a shirt that he “got for a song” – having won it in a karaoke contest.
At times Tony had a hard, rough exterior. Those fortunately enough to really get to know Tony, knew him as an incredibly humorous, kind, caring, and generous man. It’s quite an honor to get to know someone who’s hard to know – and to get to care about someone who much of society doesn’t care about at all.
I’ll remember Tony – and all he taught me – for a long, long time. He taught me the value of a good story – and, boy, could he tell them. He taught me how cardboard and duct tape can be used to effectively insulate a tent, and he taught me that Sterno canisters should not be used to heat a tent! He taught me to make time to laugh at a good joke.
He taught me the importance of patience. And that growth and change are a processes – it’s important to recognize victories (big and small) along the way. He taught me that it’s worth taking the time to genuinely get to know people. He taught me that it’s important to give second, third, and forth chances; for even if you’ve been burned by people in this world, you burn yourself when you stop being open to helping others.
Friday, December 21, I will remember Tony and far too many of our friends and neighbors without homes. The memorial service will be held at 5:30PM – preceded immediately by a time of music, candle lighting and reflection – at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Amphitheater (between the two pavilions near the corner of Pratt and Calvert Streets). All are welcome.
I hope you join me to remember those we’ve lost and to recommit ourselves to the vital task of ending homelessness.