For all the complaints about the homeless in the city, we can admit this: The vagrants who frequent our neighborhoods are often familiar fixtures we've come to appreciate. Since the lives of homeless folks are so exposed, knowing them and sharing stories about has become part of the collective experience of living in San Francisco.
In the Mission, there's the furious man who shambles down Mission Street with a cup, scowling unknown incantations with his teeth out like a vampire. And before he became an Internet sensation (and fodder for a Danny Trejo movie
), Epic Beard Man
was "Vietnam Tom" to North Beach residents who watched him rage along Columbus Street while shouting off-color come-ons to female tourists.
So while some neighbors might not notice when these vagrants die, there are those of us who can't help but take note -- and feel sad. Such is the case in Bernal Heights, where news circulated this past week about Stephen, a homeless man who lived on the picnic tables in Precita Park, and his sudden death.
As the Bernalwood blog
reports, park neighbors have hung signs in the park in honor of the neighborhood personality: "Rest in Peace Stephen," the signs read, explaining that he died on Jan. 20 of multiple organ failure while in hospice care, with his long-time girlfriend by his side.
Stephen was 59.
Neighbors are planning a memorial this Sunday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m. at Stephen's picnic table. It's the equivalent of having a post-mortem tribute to Norm around his bar stool at Cheers
. What better place to honor the man?
Last I saw of him was Christmas morning (or the morning after?) when the ambulance came to pick him up. As you may know, he was jumped
while sleeping in the park this fall and injured badly. He recuperated in the hospital and in the house(s) of neighbors, and came back to the park briefly before leaving for good. I am not sure he really ever recovered.
Super sad. He has been a mainstay of my daily dog walks in Precita Park for the past ~ 7 years. I always appreciated his friendly smiles and greetings. He looked out for me -- kept me posted on chatter in the neighborhood, let me know if sketchy things were going on. I always felt safer and happier with him around.
If only Stephen could be here to read those words himself.
Far too often, we don't realize what has been an poignant part of the city for us until it's gone. Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly