Tunisia Martin had big, brown eyes. Scott Rhoton loved art. Timothy Alred was a fisherman who had planned to just pass through town. He stayed nearly five years. Coriyanna Hayes was not yet three months old.
These are four of the 18 people, homeless or who had recently moved into permanent supportive housing, who died in Durham within the last year. About 20 religious leaders, homeless advocates and friends gathered at the Durham Farmers Market pavilion Saturday evening to remember these people, most who died young, not for the circumstances that led them to the streets, but for their essence and humanity.
“They were good, good friends,” said Julia Gamble, a nurse practitioner at Urban Ministries. “I treasured all of my time I spent with them.”
Shontina Williams, 37, was murdered in May; her body was found on Rocky Creek Trail in south Durham. Her assailant has not been found.
“God knew every footstep and thought they had,” said Susan Dunlap, chaplain at Urban Ministries, who knew Williams. “I give thanks for my friendship with them.”
Carolyn Schuldt of Open Table Ministries remembered Rhoton for his ability to see beauty in the every day: “He would say, ‘Carolyn, stop the car. Look at that tree. Or look at that cactus blooming. See that yellow flower.’”
Some of the homeless, such as Alred, who died from a chronic illness, had family who could arrange for their burial. Those without families are cremated by the state, and do not have individual gravesites.
Here is the full list, compiled by Durham Congregations and Neighborhoods and Lloyd Schmeidler, project manager with the city’s department of Community Development.