While many Iowans will visit local cemeteries to honor a loved one this Memorial Day, some will go un-remembered. Keith Isley works with Hope Ministries, a charity that operates a recovery center and missions that help homeless men in Des Moines, He says in many cases when men have died while at the Door or Faith or Bethel Mission, the staff becomes their “family.” Most people think homelessness means not having a home or place to stay, but at the missions they’ve learned isolation is the key characteristic of men who through addiction or some other poor choices have ‘burned bridges” to their families. The county may pay part of the cost for a burial, and a local funeral home donates many services, and the staff of Hope Ministries always tries to find family to contact before a homeless man’s body is cremated or buried. There are ordained ministers on staff who will do services, and some supporters have donated burial plots so the homeless can have a dignified resting place. Though many have been “beaten up by life” and lost battles with substance abuse or mental illness, Isley says they deserve respect when we remember the dead. A fair percentage of homeless men have service records, he points out — they’re veterans of Korea, Vietnam or other wars and once gave service to their country.
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