We don’t know where he came from or where he had been. We don’t know if there’s a family out there missing a father, husband, brother or son. We don’t know anything about the path he took in life that led him to a lonely park bench on a cold spring night.
And perhaps we never will.
What we do know is Christopher Cook, a 52-year-old homeless man, died of hypothermia on that bench on April 17 at Pulaski Park. After no one came forward to claim his body, he was buried last week at Maplewood Cemetery with several Anderson Police Department officers and complete strangers in attendance.
It takes a special heart to attend the funeral of a man you didn’t know. Compassion is the best of what makes us human.
But how many of us go out of our way to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with someone living on the streets and a heartbreaking glance at where we might be if things hadn’t gone our way in life?
Mr. Cook’s death is a sobering reminder of the anonymity of homelessness and the staggering number of nameless faces that spend every day and night struggling to survive on the streets.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual Point-In-Time homeless count conducted in one night each January, the number of homeless people in the United States has declined during the last three years, but still included 610,042 individuals on that night in January 2013. More than a third were without a spot in a shelter, living in abandoned buildings and cars or under bridges. And nearly a quarter of the homeless people in America are children under the age of 18.
The largest concentrations of the homeless are in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. But Indiana has a significant number as well.