By T.A. Hendrickson
Andres “Andy” Sierra, a longtime unhoused resident at the homeless encampment on W. Broadway in Eagle Rock, died in his tent on February 23. He was 62.
Sierra suffered from severe arthritis of his knees and other health conditions, said Jane Demian, the co-chair of the Eagle Rock chapter of the SELAH anti-homelessness coalition.
Outreach volunteers, who had been visiting Sierra weekly for over a year, had tried repeatedly to secure housing for Sierra and his wife, Selma, who lives at the encampment.
“Engagement volunteers reached out many times to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the area service provider regarding Andy’s condition,” said Demian. They reported that Sierra’s arthritis was worsening to the point that he could not walk even with his walker. They reported that he had been taken to the hospital emergency room multiple times, only to be discharged back to his tent.
Yet, the only offer of housing for Sierra that Demian ever heard of would have placed him in interim housing without Selma, which Sierra was not willing to accept.
At the time of his death, volunteers were working to get a wheelchair for Sierra and shelter for both Sierra and Selma through Project Roomkey, a state/county effort to house the homeless in motels.
Sierra had a big smile and engaged volunteers in conversation, despite crooked and missing teeth that made speech difficult, said Demian. He availed himself of rides to attend events at the lot on Figueroa Street where he could shower, talk with his friends and get clean clothes and a meal.
At a memorial service for Sierra at the encampment on Feb. 28, encampment residents, outreach volunteers and community members spoke among themselves, sharing remembrances and offering condolences to Selma. The area was adorned with candles and flowers and messages written in colored chalk.
A photo of Sierra displayed at the memorial was taken by the Boulevard Sentinel in 2019, when Sierra spoke to a reporter for a story about life in Eagle Rock’s encampments. Sierra said that most people at the W. Broadway encampment had been disappointed by past offers to help and “feel judged all the time.” The prevailing attitude, he said, is: “Who is anyone to judge us?”
Sierra is one of several homeless people to die on the streets in Northeast L.A. in recent years. Among the dead are a woman in her 80s who died in 2018 in the Figueroa Street encampment under the 134 Freeway; Sarah Marchain, 25, who died at the W. Broadway encampment in 2019; a disabled, older man known as “Emilio” who died in his tent in front of the Rite Aid on Eagle Rock Boulevard in 2020; and an unidentified man in his 50s found dead near Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 40 in February 2021.
In addition to his wife, Selma, Sierra is survived by a daughter, Monica, who lives in Northern California, and two grandchildren, JJ and Julie, said Demian.
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T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.
15 thoughts on “Homeless man dies in his tent in Eagle Rock”
Warm loving cheers of respect and admiration for Andy and his life. Thank you for sharing a bit of his life. <3
That man and his wife are DRUG DEALERS I’m sure it was murder by association. But lets make it like this is a good FAMILY. His daughter brings those kids and leaves them while they go get high in the tents .. Those kids need to be taken away, and one less drug dealer off the streets is how i see it.
The FACT is, he was a HUMAN BEING, and no matter what else He was, I am sorry he was in terrible pain and that he suffered. Drug users and dealers are walking wounded. People who are sick and wounded hurt Other-Selves. And in fact, most of us have psycho-social-spiritual woundedness in one form or another because we have a social system that does not offer equal opportunity or an equal “playing field,” as well as a society that doesn’t teach us to properly identify, respect or process our own emotions, thoughts, or truama; so we tend project our flaws onto “others” and show a lack of empathy. This is an unfair way of praising ourselves rather than looking into our own shortcomings. And I detect, in the judgment of myself and others about “them” (“DRUG DEALERS” or any “THEM” classification) unresolved PAIN. Mean People, criminals, vicious killers are ALL acting out WOUNDEDNESS. I take this moment to send LOVE, COMPASSION, and PEACE to ALL.
Life is not as simple as that, get over it and move on. It’s about personal responsibility, respecting your fellow man, and dealing best with what life throws at you…stop acting like a victim and victimizing this man who made his choices in life.
This MAN was a known heroin addict that refused help every time it was offered to him. His multiple hospital visits were not because of his severe arthritis (No one goes to the ER for that, please!). They were for the over-doses. His wife was with her daughter outside of the encampment (after years there with him in his tent then in her own tent). He chose that life above all other options…no one forced him to make those choices.
I would like to know how many years you have studied and lived experience with the homeless mentally ill and “drug abusing” population? And name-calling, like “Snowflake,” though it has sadly become a “norm” in this society, is clearly inappropriate in an advancing society. Soon, there will be no place for it.
“Just Get Over It and Move On” sounds like someone in your life discounted or dismissed your pain. I’m truly sorry for that, it wasn’t fair to you! I wish you could have been more supported and encouraged.
Haha, I’m not into the psycho babble, and I’m not into cancel culture. How can you believe that name calling has become the norm, were you born yesterday? I grew up in a time when “sticks and stones hurt me bones, but names will never hurt” (its about knowing why people resort to name calling and the control that comes with it). I apologize that YOU felt that way.
I believe in free thought to foster different ideas and solutions to the problems that plague our society, not stifling imagination or canceling out because you disagree or have hurt feelings (“Soon, there will be no place for it.”). I’m in to dealing with life as best I can. I get my support from my loving family and my faith. Sure, I’ve had my punches in life, we all do. I chose to deal with them and not become reclusive or wallow in self pity or worse, delve into drugs or alcohol to escape.
35 years of straight field work & intervention with the City of Los Angeles. First 3 years in South Central Los Angeles, 17 in the San Fernando Valley, and the last 15 in NELA . I’m am so done with victimization mentality. It doesn’t work with me. Some people can’t be helped, others become addicts or mentally ill because of “their” poor choices in dealing with adversity, and some are poor in coping skills they inherited from a broken family or wayward upbringing.
Some can be helped but you can’t dismiss that ultimately it boils down to decisions you make for yourself. The challenge is figuring out who we can help and then helping them.
ITS YOUR LIFE & NO ONE ELSES.
Dear Eagle Rock Ctiz, There is limited space and I’m sorry that you chose to jump to the conclusions that I have a victim mentality or See anyone else as such. My dear colleague, you sound somewhat burned-out, cynical and angry. I don’t judge you, me, or anyone else for that condition! Perfectly understandable, though painful in its own way, at least for me. AND it is not victimization or a victim’s mentally to acknowledge crime or criminal activity, nor inequities of a social system I participate in and helped to create wittingly or unwittingly. In truth, I believe we are all personally responsible for everything that happens to us or even within our perceptual fields, HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean I give myself a free pass on feeling compassion for those struggling in the dark and empathizing with their pain. Perhaps you give yourself that, and that is, of course, your right and may help you to keep functioning… for awhile. I do believe that by hardening your heart your Bodymind will eventually suffer, but that is my perception and experience– and doesn’t have to be yours. I send you Love & Goodwill!
And celebrate our apparent differences while acknowledging in higher realities that We Are One. P.S. Does everyone have “free choice” at this level of effects? Is everyone operating at the level of Causes? Does everyone have a normal IQ and normal brain-functioning?
Dear Eagle Rock Ctiz, You mention EXPERIENCE but did not reveal your real name or your clinical training/licensure. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve worked front-line case management both WITH and WITHOUT training. Professional training, which you refer to disparagingly as “psychobabble,” made all the difference in MY PERCEPTIONS. By the way, notice that I openly acknowledge my name, licensure and level of training.
As a government worker, I have no 1st amendment right protection. Hence the pseudonym. Please forgive.
Dear Eagle R. Citz, Nothing to forgive except my ignorance, thank you for the clarification and know that I have enjoyed interacting with you very much! (And, hope you will also forgive the fact that I care about you and yes, I feel your pain as a fellow citizen and colleague. As someone who worked for many years in the field (name any psych center in So Cal and I have worked there frontline or in later years as a consultant) I have a better idea than most about the frustration you must be feeling! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO US ALL! I APPRECIATE YOU!
Hiding behind a pseudo-name & a computer screen is not my style but because I have to “toe” a LINE, I can’t express my opinions freely or show why I speak the way I do (my experiences).
There was no ignorance on your part, quite the contrary. I came off rough because I do not know you and “I” apologize for that. I am not burnt out though, I have seen first hand the real victims left behind or impacted by individuals not making positive choices. I chose to side with those individuals and help them as best I can. The ones causing the issues must deal with the consequences, not be given a free pass or worse, lumped in as victims and “helped” when all they’re doing is taking advantage of a system designed for others. I give everyone I meet and deal with the opportunity to show me where they stand in life and how they got there (IQ, history, etc), but simply said, it is usually because of that history they are where they are. They diminished their opportunity to be more successful in life and therefore suffer the consequences. There may have been outside influences or causes that put them there and I can recognize that (I feel for those individuals) but many can still decide to make better choices in spite of those circumstances.
I do believe in personal responsibility and making positive choices in life. I don’t like to see people taking advantage of others or not pulling their weight. I believe we all should have consequences for our actions, good or bad. We are not born the same (where we are born, the color of our skin, the parents that decided to have us, our economic back round) but we live in the greatest country in the world (even with all its faults or troublesome history) that we can deal with these impediments and be successful if we apply ourselves.
If you chose to make poor choices then you should expect to have a poor life. Problem is, some don’t realize those poor choices made young destroy their life or chances at a better life. The rest of society gets stuck with the associated cost (mental/physical health care, financial support, incarceration) and that’s not fair. We all want to be equal, but who makes the determination of equality?
PEACE AND LOVE, APPRECIATE YOU AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND ALL YOU DO!
Carolyn Caswell and Eagle R. Citz, thank you both for your service. The debate you had is how everyone is feeling right now but you are both correct in your points. Something the general public can take away from your debate is that our homeless problem is no longer just a housing problem but it is now a psych problem as well. Our politicians have allowed this to go on for too long and the emotional toll on these people have caused them to use drugs and engage in behavior that is wrong. We can not just take them off the streets and put them in a new apartment. There has to be some form for mental help for these people , that includes the ones that do want to get off the streets. I come from a family that has worked in public hospitals and ERs and I have heard plenty of stories about homeless patients. Just like you two, they never turned their backs on a homeless patient that wanted help but they watched plenty walk out the door against medical advice. I am all for helping everyone single one of them if they want help but for the ones that do not want our help and just want to drop out from our society, are we just going to let them control our sidewalks?
It would be nice if you two could work on a presentation for the community to understand the psych needs of the homeless and what type of therapy they will need to overcome the challenges they have been facing and how as a community we engage them and stand up to their illegal behavior. Even us members of the community need your help because we are frustrated that this problem has gone on for too long.
Thanks for the offer and I would love to help, maybe when I leave my current position. Right now I have to rely on it to cover me and my family’s health insurance and position myself for retirement. The employer is fickle and prone to act irrationally when some voice opposition to certain views. I can’t expose my family to that. It is ridiculous we can’t express our opinions in this land of so many freedoms, 1st amendmant speech isn’t one I enjoy right now.
Thank you for the offer. I would be most happy to assist in whatever way meets the needs of the community. I’m sorry for the lateness of my reply. My notification of your response was in my “junk” file. I have worked extensively with homeless mentally ill in Pasadena’s “Housing First” policy through Pacific Clinics. I have seen firsthand how case mgt. makes all the difference in getting and keeping someone in housing. Feel free to contact me (my info is public, so it need not be protected) email@example.com.
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