"Bells toll at Vallejo homeless memorial"
2013-12-19 by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_24755651/bells-toll-at-vallejo-homeless-memorial]:
A homeless memorial ceremony in Vallejo Wednesday drew 60 people and the tolling of nine bells at First Baptist Church.
Standing beneath the basement's colorful tinsel-festooned ceiling, one man, Deshawn Alexander, said his father had died, homeless, in February. Now Alexander, too, is homeless, he said.
"I think about my daddy every day," Alexander said, wiping away tears. "Another one gone. Everybody got to go, everybody got to die."
Alexander, like several others, from children to seniors, had gathered along long tables for the annual Homeless Memorial to share memories of lost loved ones, and ring a bell in their name.
David Cruz, homeless for the past two years, recalled the kindness of "Ms. Ellie" who he said died in a hit-and-run accident. Ms. Ellie did not have a room for Cruz and his dog Lettie when he needed one, but said the door was open if he wanted to return for a visit or to watch a movie.
"Her presence, that's what I remember," Cruz said. "She was so warm and welcoming... then, about a year later, she was hit by a car on Broadway."
The event was hosted by the church and organized by the Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Committee, with the help of the Global Center for Success.
"We don't know how many homeless people died in Solano County (this year), but we want to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness that continues to be a serious issue," said Ruth Forney, of Solano County's Health Care for the Homeless Advisory Committee.
One man recalled befriending Gary, who died this year, at the Christian Help Center, where both were "messed up."
"We homeless have missing holes in our lives, for different reasons. Maybe addiction, maybe illness, blindness, maybe we can't see what's right in front of us," the man said. "Gary was my friend. When I would see him, we would always cheer each other up... and to me, that's friendship."
Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, whose district includes Vallejo, said the county has pledged to find permanent solutions to homelessness, because the city has "a great need."
"Shelter, for all of us, means something different... but I believe there's a shelter choice for everybody and we need to figure out what it needs for people who are homeless," Hannigan said. "I drive around this community, I meet folks who are homeless, I see homeless people and they're just like us, right? They are us."