Members involved with the homeless community are mourning the death of Kareah Mendoza, 39, who was found unresponsive in front of the Veterans’ Memorial Building on Thursday morning.
A passerby alerted police at 7:43 a.m. about an inert man, according to Berkeley police spokesman Byron White. His death did not appear to be suspicious, so his body was sent to the Alameda County Coroner’s Office, said White. The coroner’s office released his name but has not yet determined a cause of death.
“RIP KK,” Barbara Brust, the founder of the group Consider the Homeless, posted on its Facebook page, referring to Mendoza’s nickname. “1979-2018. You are already missed and were loved by many.”
Brust said Mendoza had been living on the streets of Berkeley for a number of years.
“I am heartbroken,” she said. “He was such a sweet man despite the really hard road he’s been on.”
Brust said Mendoza’s life had been irrevocably changed, she believes, upon the death of his pregnant wife who used a wheelchair. She also lived on the streets. Brust was not certain of the timeline of her death.
“When she died he changed,” she said. “He lost his heart but he didn’t lose the part that made him so sweet and endearing to those who knew him.”
Mendoza started to drink more heavily after that, she said.
Because he had a sweet and trusting disposition, other homeless people often took advantage of Mendoza, said Brust. He had been robbed and beaten repeatedly in recent years.
The coroner’s office said Mendoza did not have a fixed address but his Facebook page said he was from Oakland.
Some of Mendoza’s family now live in Washington, and about a year ago they launched a fundraising drive to try and locate Mendoza.
“My Family, Mom and I need your help to reunite my brother who is hard to find somewhere in California while we are here in Washington,” Mendoza’s brother Gabriel wrote about 11 months ago on a fundraising site. “We have not seen or heard much from him in a few years. Last I heard he was living on the streets due to alcoholism. We are definitely worried about him and, above all, we LOVE and miss him. We do not have enough funds to be able to find him, travel to and from California, get a hotel while we are searching, clean him up after we find him, put him on the train with us and bring him home. The only thing truly standing in the way of this reunion is financial concerns. My Mom has been praying and crying over him. Hoping to see him by the end of September of this year.”
Some of Mendoza’s family posted on Facebook that they would be returning to Oakland next week to hold a memorial service. Mendoza’s Berkeley friends are planning to hold a short service for him at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building at 1931 Center St.
This is the second person experiencing homelessness to die on the streets of Berkeley this year. Lisa Blowers, 51, died on Woolsey near Telegraph on May 28.