Remembering Kenny

Oh Kenny: I’m sad to hear you left us last week. Rest in Peace, my friend. 

I had the honor of knowing Kenneth for almost 2 decades and I want to remember him for his wit, confidence and relentless generosity. Even in the difficult times, it was always good to see this resilient warrior limping through the streets of Uptown. He was a picture of survival and perseverance.

Life wasn't easy or simple for Kenneth. His struggle was real. He faced a lot of trauma in his life. He was a Vietnam veteran. He experienced homelessness. He rotated in and out of housing. He stayed with us at CCO, he slept at the airport, he slept on trains and he often found rest and support in Uptown Tent City. It seemed like everyone knew Kenny, and he found community and support in Uptown. 

What I'm about to say, I say out of love for a man I consider a friend. A few of us went through many hills and valleys with him and his obstacles were huge and daunting. He needed others and many of us rose up to assist him, but whereas the system let him down in countless ways, he was often his own worst enemy. This combination led to a toxicity that made his life a lot harder than it needed to be! It sadly led to evictions and continued homelessness.

Kenny was full of love, he had a heart of gold, but because he struggled with his trauma, mental illness, addictions, and health issues his priorities often went the wrong way. Despite our pleas, any ounce of logic often disappeared as he let homeless friends sleep his apartment when he shouldn't of, bought people stuff when that money should have gone to his rent or he'd miss a vital appointment because he needed to help someone. He was a generous and compassionate fella who was always trying to help others, his bouts of rage were often a result of looking out for others too, so as a result, he often ended up sabotaging opportunities.

I remember once he didn't pay his rent because he bought a friend a ukulele. This act of kindness summed up Kenny. Even though it made no sense to anyone else, buying this instrument made perfectly logical sense to him. His friend didn't beg for it, but Ken knew he needed it and he had the money, so he paid for it and put himself in debt! He didn't do it to screw the landlord, he did it because he cared for his buddy and it made sense to him. Kenny had a heart of gold and there was often no stopping him from showing his generosity to those he loved. 

Kenny inspires me to not give in. Homelessness is so complex and it calls us not to put people in a box. It calls us to fight, help and pray for the individual with his or her own unique needs. He inspires me to fight harder for the 3 things I've been writing about recently, things that call us to look compassionately at the uniqueness of each and every person: Trauma-Informed Care, Harm Reduction, and the Housing First model. If anyone needed these, Kenny did. He deserved better. 

As I reflect on the life and death of this homeless veteran, I see where the empires of this world let him down, but I do find peace in the fact that God's everlasting Kingdom has embraced and loves him with an eternal love. Even though Kenny was invisible to the those in charge, I have hope in Jesus, who never ignores or forgets about those who society despises. Kenny heard countless false promises in his 67 years, but I am thankful that God is always true to His word and that He never stopped loving this man in need of mercy. In this world of hatred and revenge, I am grateful that Jesus is full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Kenneth: thank you for being you! You're in the hands of Jesus now. And until we meet again, Rest In Peace, my brother.....


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