CANDLELIGHT VIGIL ON SOUTH BEACH FOR CHARLES EIMERS
A hundred or so Key Westers gathered on Thanksgiving night on South Beach for the anniversary of Charles Eimers’ death. Tourist for a day, Mr. Eimers met with a controversial death on November 28th of last year within 24 hours of his arrival in Key West.
“I myself am just not ready emotionally to attend,” wrote Joshua Eimers, Charles’ youngest son. Instead, the family sent a wooden cross and a heartfelt message which was read aloud by Rick Boettger.
“It was his dream to spend a winter in sunny Key West after spending a lifetime as a Detroit autoworker,” his son Treavor told The Blue Paper.
“I pray that we can all live with compassion and empathy for all those we come in contact with and realize that we really are one human family,” said one speaker at the gathering, Alex Symington.
The possibility that Charles Eimers could have fallen victim to the harsh treatment that Key West reserves for homeless people has been a concern for many over the past year. One year to the day after Charles Eimers’ death, we went around town to find out how local homeless people were spending Thanksgiving Day.
“Of course the City is criminalizing homelessness,” said one volunteer at the Soup Kitchen at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea. “There are so many of them in jail for the crime of sitting or laying down or drinking in public.” “It works,” the kitchen manager told us, ”there are less homeless.” They’d served a little over 200 meals last year and less than 150 this year. “They’re in jail,” someone else said.
Key West doesn’t have an ordinance that criminalizes feeding the homeless like the City of Fort Lauderdale, but the public reprobation, the accusations of being an “enabler”, weighs heavily on those who still serve food. Many have caved in to public pressure: Metropolitan Church stopped serving food to the hungry. Glad Tidings Tabernacle, the church that used to organize Thanksgiving Day free meals, also dropped out of that program. Jai Somers, coordinator of Project Lighthouse’s street outreach program, told us that for the first time she decided not to serve Thanksgiving meals to the homeless youth, runaways, and street urchins she protects and calls her “kids”. According to the survey gathered each year by Monroe County Homeless Services Continuum-of-Care, Inc, the number of homeless persons in Monroe County has decreased steadily for the past five years. It went from 1040 In 2010 to 680 in 2014.
Yet around town on Thanksgiving there are many random acts of kindness; some of them very unexpected.
“Guess who bought us lunch?” Dave Martin asked us. Dave and Jackie are the homeless couple that move around downtown Key West on tricycles and have Florida ID cards listing their address as ‘panhandling zone on Caroline Street.’
“I don’t know. Who bought you lunch?”
“KWPD Officer Gary Lovette. That’s who did. He just asked us, ‘Did you guys have lunch?’ And he bought us two Cuban sandwiches!”
“We thought you should know.”
To access all Blue Paper articles about the death of Charles Eimers click here.
Here’s the video by Gary Ek [aka Gweko Phlocker] of the Candlelight Memorial: