Founder of Homeless Empowerment and Resources for Transition (HEART)
On Friday morning, Sept. 10, my friend Gina Early phoned to tell me that Pete Lopez had just died in Harbor and that, as the weather was turning cold, it was time for us to organize a disbursement of supplies to the homeless.
When I looked at my calendar and calculated how long it would take to organize a disbursement, I realized that Gina Early was right on time.
Gina is a doer. Last winter when coats donated to the homeless needed to be washed, she washed several loads, and when H.E.A.R.T’s supplies needed to be inventoried and disbursed, she helped with that.
When Pete Lopez needed to be inside for a little while, he could visit Gina.
Pete Lopez, who was 53 years old when he died, was also a doer and a helper. Even though Pete was an alcoholic and sometimes homeless, there was much more to him than that.
For one thing, Pete was a veteran who served his country in Vietnam. As Pete said, “he mopped up the mess in Vietnam after the war.”
Pete was a member of the Tolowa nation, spoke the language and did things to help his people.
Pete had family locally who cared about him and who are currently grieving.
Pete had gone to culinary school and was a chef. Last Thanksgiving and Christmas he cooked dinner for friends, some of whom had no way to cook.
Pete worked hard to earn his money by collecting cans in harbor and Brookings, and wash – hands down – the best canner in our area. He also did other work for pay.
Pete kept himself informed of what was going on in his community. He spent part of his hard-earned money buying the Curry Coastal Pilot newspaper, which he read regularly and thoroughly.
Pete often watched over and helped other homeless people, especially women. For instance, the morning before he died, he walked a homeless woman from her job to where she was staying. Pete had many friends in Brookings-Harbor, Smith River and Crescent City whom he visited regularly. Despite his sometimes rumpled appearance, inevitable when one is homeless, Pete was welcome in many people’s homes.
For almost two years, Pete helped with H.E.A.R.T. projecteds. He attended some of our meetings and gave his input, helped set up our disbursements, spoke with the press in order to educate the community and helped to settle a dispute between two homeless men – who both desperately needed our last sleeping bag – at one of our disbursements. At H.E.A.R.T.’s first disbursement on Jan. 27, 2009, Pete’s photo was taken, despite his embarrassment, because other homeless folks, understandably, did not want their photos to be taken.
H.E.A.R.T. will be organizing one large disbursement of clothing and supplies this season to be scheduled in about five or six weeks. We hoped to give supplies not only to street people, but also to all the other kinds of homeless people. Because of all Pete Lopez’s help with prior H.E.A.R.T. projects, our disbursement will be a memorial to Pete.
We can only accomplish this disbursement if more people volunteer, however. If you would like to help us with The Peter Lopez Memorial Disbursement to Our Homeless, please call 541-661-8158 or come to a meeting in the conference room of the Hanscam Center from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24.