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‘We Speak Their Names:’ Memorial Honors 8 Homeless People Who Died in Longmont This Year

December 18, 2018
Journey Church Pastor Rick Ebbers speaks Monday during a memorial ceremony for eight homeless people who died in Longmont this year.

If you go

What: Boulder homeless memorial

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Boulder Bandshell, 1212 Canyon Blvd.

RSVP: boulderbridgehouse.org/memorial/

Gordon Kolisnyk loved socks.

Either that, his friends said, or he was smuggling them to his friend Rico Mean, a fellow homeless man grappling with Colorado’s cold winter on the Longmont streets.

Kolisnyk died this year, along with seven others within Longmont’s close-knit homeless community who were memorialized Monday evening at Journey Church. The ceremony, hosted by Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, or HOPE, was part of a push by the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Consumer Advisory Board and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council to hold events on or near Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year.

Others remembered were Jim Arnold, Nicole Dust, Katherine Rogers, Ben Fueston, Glenn Tefft, Dominic Peterson and Brent Gruis.

“We’re here tonight to remember and speak their names — not just the names, but the people behind them,” Journey Pastor Rick Ebbers told those in attendance. “We need to hear these names spoken in part because it reminds us that someone will speak our name, that somebody will remember our lives and that we do this for each other, so that we don’t do this alone.”

While Boulder holds an annual homeless memorial in December, officials with HOPE said the year’s significant loss of life in Longmont warranted a memorial of its own.

“These individuals are not forgotten,” Alice Sueltenfuss, HOPE’s navigation services director and the event organizer, said in a statement. “They have left lasting memories with us and deserve to be remembered.”

Friends and family dropped rose petals in jars containing the names of those who died. After that, they told their stories.

Gruis came to Longmont after working for many years, but the experience of being a U.S. Marine took its toll and he began receiving services either on the street from HOPE’s street outreach or from the shelter beginning in January 2017.

“It just hurts,” an unidentified friend of his said Monday. “He didn’t know his way.”

Arnold, known to his friends as “Cowboy,” died only months after realizing his dream of sharing his own apartment with his girlfriend.

Kolisnyk became a client of HOPE in November 2017 and was an immediate charmer. With a big grin and a fondness for stories and jokes, his friends said Monday, Gordon made an impression on everyone he met.

Peterson, known as “Dom,” was loved by all he knew, including the HOPE staff, for many years. In times past, he would ride up to the HOPE van on his bicycle with his dog, Rosco.

Mean, who’s been homeless on Longmont’s streets for two years, spoke of the homeless community’s particular embrace.

“I made it through the winter with the help of HOPE and Journey and a lot of my friends. In those two years I got to know a lot of good people — everyone of them embraced me,” he said.

Monday’s service came at a particularly fraught time for Longmont’s homeless population, who earlier this year grappled with a countywide coordinated entry system that left many confused and some rebuffed.

“Coordinated entry,” or officially Homeless Solutions for Boulder County, unites nonprofits and government agencies around providing services for homeless people designed to get them housed, officials say.

With some fearing that the system’s blind spots earlier this year were leaving a portion of the homeless population wanting more, a handful of Longmont residents took it upon themselves to traverse the city and hand out food and supplies to people who needed them.

“Everyone gets here in different ways,” a women identified only as Alana said Monday. “But I know that everyone who ends up the street is in pain. But we are a family.”

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn

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