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Providence Journal: Alone in death, but not in life

July 13, 2019

Vigil pays tribute to homeless man killed in hit-and-run

By Kevin G. Andrade | Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE – The pastel-colored homes that once gave the South Providence neighborhood of “Clowntown” its name – before they were vacated and boarded up – framed about two dozen people gathered under the sum at the parking lot of the Salvation Army on Broad Street to mourn and honor Steven “Mustache” Sceeles on Friday afternoon.

“It is not that a homeless man was killed,” Zach Kenyon, acting Emergency Medical Services chief for the Providence Fire Department, said. “It is that Steven was killed.”

Sceeles, 61, was run over by a vehicle on Pearl Street on June 9 in a hit-and-run. A 40-year-old Providence woman, Braulio Uceta Rodriguez, was later charged. Kenyon – who said that EMS personnel often develop friendships with homeless people in the area because they are often called to their aid – took out his phone.

“I have this on my phone still because Steven was a friend of mine,” he said before hitting play. Sceeles’s voice rang out in song.

“That’s Steve!” joyfully exclaimed Tetee, a once-homeless woman who gave Sceeles the nickname “Mustache.” Others laughed with nostalgia.

Mourners said that moments like that reflected who Sceeles was – a man who loved to sing and make others smile even through the challenges of homelessness.

“Steve’s death is tragic in its own right,” said Megan Smith, an outreach worker with House of Hope. “It is also tragic as an exemplar…. This community is overlooked.

“That is what allowed someone to hit him and keep going,” she continued. “They did not see him as human.”

“We need to make noise,” said Sabrina Rivera, an outreach worker for House of Hope, calling for action to alleviate housing issues for the homeless. “What is happening now is not getting better.”

“It is getting worse.”

For Tetee, who declined to give her full name, the circumstances of her friend’s death signified that things need to change; but the solidarity among those in the parking lot was not one of them.

“Just because we are on the street does not mean we are nothing,” she said, as her grief slowly asserted itself in her words. “[People] say we have no one.

“But look here,” she said, raising her arm in a sweeping motion towards those around her as a warm smile appeared on her face. “We are a family.”

kandrade@providencejournal.com

(401) 277–7646

On Twitter: @Kevprojo

Homelessness in Rhode Island  

  • 3,242 people stayed in a homeless shelter in the state in 2018. Of these, 721 were in families, and 2,521 were single adults.
  • The majority, 66%, were 31 or older.
  • While the number of homeless families with children has declined steadily since 2013, the number of single adults without homes has remained steady.
  • 275 of those sheltered were veterans, of which only five were in families.
  • 72% of homeless veterans in R.I. last year were 51 or older.

SOURCE: RHODE ISLAND COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS 2018 ANNUAL SHELTERED HOMELESS COUNT

Courtesy of Providence Journal



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