A unique memorial service was held in Syracuse on Friday. It happened near an entry to a local highway. YNN's Bill Carey says for the man being remembered, that was the area that was home.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- They come from different worlds. The homeless. The community. The clergy.
All were brought together by a tragedy a week ago. A 40-year-old homeless man, Tim Wilkin, had lit a fire in a campsite underneath Interstate 690 in downtown Syracuse. The fire spread and Wilkin was killed.
“He was a free spirit and he had made his own decisions. He chose a very difficult path this past six months, eight months. Eight months,” said Mary Jane Wilkin, Tim’s mother.
Mary Jane Wilkin traveled from her home in Florida to attend the service, held alongside another homeless camp near a highway on-ramp. There she heard praise from those who had followed the same path as Tim.
“He'd give you the shirt off his back. He had a heart of gold. Anything. Anything that anybody ever wanted, he would give it to them if he had it,” Jay Patana said.
Arthur Wine said, “The day that he left and went over there, we were present. He went over there, you know. He said he was going to sleep. And on that day, I felt that my spirit was moving me to pray for him and I didn't know why. Now I do.”
People who work with the homeless at local shelters hope publicity surrounding Tim Wilkin's death raise consciousness and help battle stereotypes.
“I think the greatest misconception is why can't they just get a job? And I think the reality is, there are a lot of reasons why a lot of these people can't get a job. Different addictions. Different things going on in their lives. Psychological and emotional problems. Physical problems. That's left them homeless,” said Rev. John Manno of St. James Catholic Church.
And in some cases, they say, people just make a choice to live on the street.
Wilkin said, “One of the hardest things a parent can do is let your kids make the wrong choices. It is hard. And then back off and be there to catch them when they fall.”
The homeless are often ignored and unnoticed. Tim Wilkin was noticed and remembered.
Wilkin said, “So thank you all very much.”