Homeless Man Dies on Pontiac Porch…

Homeless Man Dies on Pontiac Porch, Former Shelter Organizer Wants ActionCFSEM-123-OaklandCounty115-digital-ad_v2

(C. Proxmire, Jan. 2, 2014)

A homeless man was found dead on a porch in Pontiac on New Year’s Day, and a fellow man that used to give him shelter is now beside himself, saying “he didn’t have to die this way.”

58-year-old Mickie “Red” Roquemore was known in the homeless community of Pontiac. He’d been surviving on the streets and staying at shelters for 8-10 years, and was also known to be an alcoholic. Sometimes he slept on a porch in the 800 block of St. Clair Street, near Baldwin and Montcalm. He was found dead there just before 9am on New Year’s Day.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is waiting on a toxicology report before determining waterworkthe cause of death, but a statement from the department says there is “no obvious sign of trauma.” Temperatures that night were down to 15 degrees.

Dave Coleman is a 64-year-old GM retiree who runs a rental hall called Center Stage. He’s also used the hall as an informal warming center and shelter for over 17 years, until May of 2014 when the City presented him with tickets, fines and a cease and desist order.

“HOPE is the only low-barrier shelter [left] in the city,” Coleman said. “They have a limit of 62 people and they won’t exceed that due to fire codes. So they turn away 20-40 people a night during the winter. At Center Stage we used to be able to take up to 40. But now I can’t take anyone in. And Red didn’t have anywhere to go.seed010115Kate_Baker_Jan

“Although he had his shortcomings, he did not deserve to die in the cold. His death should compel us to do something. His life should be a testimonial. To the guys out there drinking, they should say ‘let me stop being an alcoholic. Let me get my life in order and stop doing what I’m doing.’ And the message to the authorities is to build a center. Everybody just wants to sweep this under the rug. But we need to take care of this.”

Coleman sees helping the homeless as a religious calling, referencing the Bible. “God made man in his image. And he should be given the same dignity and respect. Whoever reproaches the poor, ferncareADreproaches his maker.”

He knows that Center Stage was not ideal, but at least it was something. “We didn’t have a kitchen or all the proper facilities and that, but it was a warm place to go and sleep and not freeze,” he said. “I’m not advocating to open back up, but they do need to do something. And right now it feels like people are doing nothing.”

Coleman believes that panhandling in the areas around Center Stage may have led to the City cracking down on his guests. “They’d go across the street to the Marathon Station and panhandle. I’d tell them not to panhandle. I’d threaten them. I’d throw them out for a day, a week, a month. Other people would go and tell them not to do it because they would mess it up for everybody. But some people just wouldn’t listen.”Reid_Sally_115

Regardless of how it came about, he cannot legally give shelter to the homeless any more. And now one of them is dead.

Coleman continues to do what he can. He hosts dinners for adults with special needs, and works with Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest. And he hopes to be part of whatever solution comes for sheltering the poorest citizens.

“We are going to be judged for how we care for the weakest, the blind, the lame, the homeless. seed020_heather_coleman_vossWe all should care. And we all should be trying to come up with a solution besides just tossing people aside,” he said.

Currently HOPE is open and is always seeking donations of money, food, personal items and volunteers. From their website:

“HOPE Hospitality and Warming Center was founded in 1998. The main purpose of HOPE’s shelter programs are to provide a safe haven for homeless adults. HOPE is a low barrier model which means sobriety is not a criteria for entry- only good behavior and adherence to shelter rules. HOPE is the only walk in (self-referral), low barrier, emergency overnight adult shelter in Oakland County.”

More information on HOPE can be found at http://www.hopewarmingpontiac.org/about.

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