Community Holds Vigil for Homeless Adams Morgan Man Who Died When Temps Dropped

The group gathered to remember Miguel Gonzales, and also to send a message to community leaders about protecting those like him.

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The D.C. community gathered Saturday for a vigil to remember the life of an Adams Morgan man experiencing homelessness who died when temperatures became frigid in April. 

Miguel Gonzales was born in 1962 and grew up in a house his mother owned on Adams Mill Road, a house he couldn’t live in when she died.

“So at 80 years old, she got pulled into a reverse mortgage to survive, that when she passed in 2016, that company sent a bill to Miguel for $420,000," said Bikram Surya Chiruvolu of Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development.

Unable to pay, Gonzales remained in the community he grew up in, but under circumstances neither he nor his late mother could have envisioned.

He slept where he could after the tent he had lived in was removed from the plaza at 18th Street and Columbia Road. At times, Gonzales had help, including clothing, food and odd jobs. 

He died earlier this month on the sidewalk, just outside the fence that now surrounds the plaza where he once lived. He was 59.

That area is now being prepared for new construction.

“The way that he came to be unhoused directly speaks to this process of corporate violence that we’ve been normalizing,” Chiruvolu said. 

A short procession from Unity Park to the plaza where Gonzales died served as his only funeral, but organizers said they hope it brings attention to the thousands of people like him whose lives balance on the fringes of changing communities.

“The folks that we’re seeing sidelined on the streets, they’re our own, and we need to support them. And they all have individual stories that the folks that might be newer, they do need to take the time and learn and know,” Adams Morgan resident Ren Lee said. 

Gonzales was a Washingtonian, and childhood friends from Oyster Elementary School remember him fondly. 

“He lived right there, so when I would come up, we’d always bop around, and he would come up to my house,” classmate David Swammy said. 

“He was the nicest guy you’d ever know. He was a lifelong resident of Adams Morgan,” David Hargrove, another childhood friend, said.

Gonzales’ story, for now, ends at the city morgue. Homeless advocates are trying to locate his next of kin, either in the U.S. or in his mother’s birthplace in the Dominican Republic, so he can be given a proper burial.

At the emotional vigil Saturday, one man said into a microphone before a crowd, “Nobody who was born and raised in this community should die in the manner in which he did.”

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