Juan Oyola and Jaime Matthews greeted those coming in out of the rain on the unseasonably warm day. Oyola shook their hand and handed them a tan program, while Matthews smiled and gave them a small candle with a paper ring on it to stop drips. The attendees, rich and poor, young and old, well-dressed and disheveled came to the church on Haywood Street for the annual memorial for the homeless who died this year in Asheville and Buncombe County.
Twenty-two were identified by name in the program, though the speakers pointed out that there were certainly others, either not known or not found, who died this year. Some died in hospital, some in the street, two in the river. Very few of those attending the memorial knew any of them, and those who may have might not recognize the given names.
Representatives from the city agencies who deal with homeless issues were on hand. Our Voice, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Asheville Police Department, Green Opportunities, among others read the list of names as the congregation sang “Lord, Have Mercy.” Afterward, the attendees lit candles, held high to honor the dead.
Organizers with the Asheville Buncombe Homeless Initiative stress that things have much improved locally, but there is still much to do, and they always need willing volunteers at a wide variety of places to help.
The names of the homeless memorialized today are:
Mell Ailes, Jesse Bailey, Charles Davis, Richard Evans, Geffery Gault, Steve Haluko, Gerald Hixon, Rhonda Lordman, Clarence Matthews, George May, Kelly Metcalf, Adrian Nelson, Rachel Nesbeth, Rich Ochoa, Sharon Ogle, Ian Pennell, William Porter, Matthew Ratliff, Vernon Rauch, Destiny Reifschneider, Sandra Smart, and Larry Short.