November 24, 2008 · Updated 7:04 PM
The death of a 61-year-old man this week by suicide just before his eviction from his apartment in the Shorewood Heights apartments is a terrible tragedy. It is our policy not to report on suicides, but we felt the circumstances in this case should be made known to the community.
It must be stated up front that neither Shorewood nor the eviction process can be blamed for his death. But we are left to wonder if something could have been done to change this deadly outcome.
Sadly, no one seems to know anything about this man, who had lived in his apartment for about a year.
There is always more than meets the eye in a situation like this. The back story may be that this was a troubled man with a history of personal struggles or illness, or a man who was simply alone and without hope.
Psychiatrists indicate that, for some, eviction is the ultimate rejection, one more blow to what may be an already fragile psyche.
The man, who lived by himself, did not pay his October rent on time — his first missed payment. As allowed by law, Shorewood moved to have him evicted within just a few days. He had plenty of notice, they said, but he did not respond or ask for a reprieve.
It is unclear if anyone had actually gone in person to talk with him about the situation. Shorewood managers indicated that they try to help those who cannot pay by directing them to social service agencies, but do not make any calls themselves.
Because of privacy laws, we cannot find out if or when he ever made use of the services available from Mercer Island Youth & Family Services or any other social agencies in the area. It seems unlikely.
Agencies such as Youth & Family Services can help in this type of situation with emergency housing or money for rent.
Yet, we are left wondering if something or someone would have changed his mind, given him hope and purpose. Here in the land of plenty, on the cusp of the holiday season, in a place that celebrates families, faith and giving, a person was lost.