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Daily Massgoers pray for homeless man who died outside church

03 8.17.17_homeless death.Mission Dolores PAGEMission Dolores pastor Father Francis Garbo leads a small group in prayers for the dead near the church wall where a homeless man was found dead after a morning Mass Aug. 2. (Photo by Valerie Schmalz/Catholic San Francisco)

August 17, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Part of Mission Dolores custodian Raju Kumar’s routine is waking up the men who sleep overnight against the walls of the basilica. Pastor Father Francis Garbo calls them “our evening parishioners,” and says he believes the homeless men feel safer tucked against the side of the church.

On Aug. 2, one of those men, known as Dennis, died shortly after waking up, probably around 7:30 a.m. According to the San Francisco medical examiner’s office, Dennis’ legal name was Assad Deiche. He was 48 years old and apparently a resident of San Francisco, although that was not certain. No other information was immediately available, the office said.

The day after his death, Father Garbo, Kumar and the “7:30 Mass group” prayed for “Dennis” at the daily Mass held in the Mission Dolores chapel and walked to the spot where the homeless man was found lifeless. They held a short prayer service, lifting the traditional Catholic words of prayer for the dead as cars and trucks passed noisily on 16th Street.

“Receive his soul, and present him to God the most high,” Father Garbo and his regular congregants prayed. “Eternal rest grant onto Dennis, O Lord, and perpetual light shine on to him. May he rest in peace.”

For those who attend Mission Dolores, the homeless who gather can be difficult to deal with as their tents spread out on the sidewalk, as one man noted, but as the small group listened and nodded Father Garbo said the down and out men feel safer outside Mission Dolores Basilica.

“Somehow they choose the side of the church. Somehow they know they will be safe,” Father Garbo said after the five-minute prayer service. “People say, ‘I want to die inside the church.’ Dennis died at the side of the church.”

“Let us show them love,” Father Garbo said of the homeless. “Let us not look onto the other side or pass by. When we see them, let them see our concern. Some offer food, some offer money but we can offer prayers.”

A city and county census earlier this year found about  7,500 homeless, with more than half living on the street.

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