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.