This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Dave was one of us. He wandered into the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville one day, introducing himself and his cause: bringing the lottery to Utah. He wore a leather jacket embroidered with "UTAH LOTTO" on the back. He drove a car, when it was operable, on which he had painted the American flag. He had printed up flyers about his candidacy for the governorship of Utah and fully expected to be elected.
Dave was one of us. He came to church most Sunday mornings, an hour or two early to make himself some coffee. To charge his cell phone. To get warm. He sat as best he could through the liturgy and the sermon and came forward to take holy communion. Whenever he received the bread from me, he said "Thank you." He came to our monthly community dinners, and our fellowship time following Sunday morning service.
Sometimes he slept in his car in the church parking lot. During the cold of winter. Sometimes he slept in our memorial garden in back of the church. Sometimes he found a lawn chair to sleep in on the front porch of the church.
He considered himself the church's unofficial groundskeeper. When he had the energy he cleared the yard of debris that had blown in on the east wind. He shoveled the walks when they needed it.
Dave was homeless. And mentally ill. And he was one of us.
Many people tried to help Dave. But the government services for mentally ill didn't quite fit Dave, and he didn't stick with any recommendations or appointments intended to help him. Members of the congregation brought him food when he was hungry. I visited him many times when he was hospitalized. We answered the many phone calls he made, just to keep connected to someone who would listen. We gave him clothing that he needed, and often bailed his car out of impound. As winter approached last year, when his car was out of commission, we drove him to a homeless shelter in Ogden (since there is no shelter in Davis County) so he would be warm and fed. If he'd stayed for several nights, they would provide him with a caseworker who would connect him to services he might need and could certainly use. But he could not bring himself to stay more than one night.
Dave was homeless and often invisible here in Davis County. He was annoying and exasperating, but he was one of us. He didn't live or belong anywhere, but was at home at the Church of the Resurrection.
At the end of last year, Dave got sick. His phone calls to me increased up to 11 per day. I could tell he was increasingly out of touch with reality. On December 30, he wandered into the pizza place next to the church, so sick he could not hold his head off the table at which he sat. The concerned staff there offered to call him an ambulance to get him some immediate medical care, but he refused.
He left that establishment when the temperature was in the teens. The next morning, two members of the church found his body in the snow in front of the church.
It was a very sad end to a very sad life. And we are sorry he is gone.
No next of kin has been found, eight weeks later. Dave is still not laid to rest. The Church of the Resurrection held a memorial service for him two weeks after his death. There were no next of kin in attendance, but his family was together. We sang and prayed and commended his soul to the arms of our loving God who created him. At this service, we also prayed for "all who are lost in this world; without shelter, without reliable income, who are unsure of when next they will eat; for those who struggle with mental illness. Grant that we may serve them with humility and welcome them into our community of faith with compassion."
We have been in touch with the medical examiner and hope to receive his ashes when we are legally allowed to do that. And we will bury his ashes here at the church. You see, Dave was a homeless child of God. He found family at the Church of the Resurrection and we are planning to bring him home here to rest.
There are numerous bills and appropriations decisions facing the Legislature concerning our homeless population. I pray that the Legislature will never forget that the people who are presently homeless have names and faces. We at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection will never forget Dave.
The Rev. Lyn Zill Briggs is vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Centerville.