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Memorial honors five homeless people who died

'These are typically chronically ill people that have been living on the streets for quite a while'

The memorial service was supposed to include the names of four homeless people who died on the streets of Glendale this year, but one more was added to the list at the last minute.

Rosemarie Avalos was found dead over the weekend on a bus bench in South Glendale, just steps from Glendale Memorial Hospital. Like other transients who lost their lives, she had been on the fringes of society for years.

“These are typically chronically ill people that have been living on the streets for quite a while,” said Natalie Profant Komuro, executive director of Ascencia, the largest homeless services provider in Glendale. “They typically have chronic health problems and addiction that makes them very vulnerable to the cold.”

Komuro, her staff and a handful of local homeless individuals gathered Monday at Cerritos Park for their annual vigil.

Avalos’ name was read aloud, as were the names of others who had passed away in Glendale: Terry Robson, Billy Madrid, Eddie Carrillo and Linda Falcon.

The group also remembered William Burke and Dale Kirby, former Ascencia clients who died while living in housing elsewhere.

Komuro said her staff had tried for years to convince Avalos to move into a shelter, but she always declined. That happens with many of the homeless Ascencia tries to help, she said.

“It’s sad. It’s frustrating,” Komuro said. “I get angry, but you just got to get back in there and carry on.”

Just about everyone at the memorial knew one another, and they shared stories about those who had died.

Linda Leichsenring said she passed Avalos frequently on the street and always gave her cigarettes. She said she saw Avalos the night she died.

“She was on her side and I put a cigarette on her shoulder, unaware she had passed away,” Leichsenring told Times Community News.

Philip Papineau, who has been homeless for 30 years, said Robson and Kirby were friends he used to drink with.

“They are in a better place,” he said. “At least they’re not suffering no more.”

Komuro recalled Burke for his sense of humor and interest in improvisational comedy.

Alfred Hernandez, an Ascencia case manager, said Madrid was a Vietnam War veteran.

Ascencia has held a memorial service each year for the last seven years. Last year, 10 names were read, Komuro said.

Twitter: @arinmikailian

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