While Isidiro Omar Gomez lived on the streets of the Garden Alameda neighborhood for more than two decades, residents and business owners in the area considered him a neighbor.
“He hung out in my driveway, and he”d go behind the building to sleep,” said Adrian Avila, who works at Silicon Valley Debug and lives above the offices at 701 Lenzen Ave. “He had a home in the neighborhood. He had a routine. He just didn”t have a roof over his head.”
Sadly for Gomez, his routine didn”t include sleeping at homeless shelters during cold snaps. He was hospitalized for 10 days in December after he lost the use of his legs due to diabetes and subsequently contracted hypothermia and became severely dehydrated. He was in and out of the hospital a couple more times before he died on Christmas Eve.
“He”d never really go inside cold weather shelters,” Avila said. “He liked his freedom. He knew what his freedom might cost him.”
Avila and some of Gomez”s other friends arranged a memorial that was attended by dozens of people.
“I knew he had a network, but I never understood the scope of it, from lawyers to janitors to taco truck operators,” Avila said.
Apparently, however, Gomez”s network didn”t include any next of kin in the U.S., and the Santa Clara County Coroner”s Office was still in possession of Gomez”s remains almost a month after his death. To help ensure “proper and dignified services for him in the cremation process,” Avila started a crowd-funding campaign at gofundme.com to raise the $2,000 needed for Gomez”s inurnment by Jan 24.
While the coroner”s website assures that unclaimed remains will be cremated at county expense after 30 days and that the ashes will be scattered “in a compassionate manner,” Avila wanted to make sure his friend was well taken care of.
“I want something more dignified for him, respectful to the person he was,” Avila said. “Everyone I”ve spoken with never had a bad situation with him. That”s saying something for someone who lived his lifestyle.”
As of Jan. 21, Avila had raised $2,160 through the website. He said the excess funds will go toward some sort of memorial for Gomez. Avila is also considering buying clothes and blankets for the local homeless community in honor of his late friend.