A memorial for Gabriel Estrada, 38, at the homeless encampment where he lived on N. Figueroa St. in Eagle Rock. | Photo by Jane Demian

Rest in peace: Gabriel Estrada, age 38 and unhoused, dies in his tent in Eagle Rock

2022 Editions March More News Obituaries

By Jane Demian

An unhoused resident of Eagle Rock, Gabriel Estrada, 38, died in his tent on N. Figueroa Street under the 134 Freeway overpass on February 19, 2022. 

The cause of death has not yet been determined, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner.

I met Gabriel a year and a half ago while he was waiting at a bus stop at the corner of Yosemite Ave. and Eagle Rock Blvd. He was carrying a suitcase. He told me he was homeless and moved around a lot. He was friendly and made easy conversation. He had a brilliant smile and a disarming sweetness. 

The next time I saw Gabriel – shortly after COVID hit– he had set up his tent in the city-owned lot near the freeway ramps on N. Figueroa St. across from the Eagle Rock Recreation Center. I visited him as part of a volunteer outreach team with SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, which visited him there weekly. SELAH volunteer teams visit our unhoused neighbors on a neighborhood level, to develop relationships and trust, provide material aid, connection to existing services, and political advocacy. 

During our many conversations with Gabriel, he often expressed how much he loved his dad, who lives in the area. He also told us he grew up in Eagle Rock and attended Eagle Rock Elementary. On his Facebook page he mentioned that his grandparents live on Hill Drive.  

He seemed to be on the path to greater stability when he died. 

In September 2021, the encampment in the Figueroa lot was cleared in order to begin the construction of 48 Tiny Homes for our unhoused neighbors on the site. Gabriel and approximately 26 individuals were relocated to a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Gabriel stayed at the hotel until November, when he was briefly hospitalized.

When he returned to the hotel, his room was no longer available because he had been absent for several days. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), with whom Gabriel had worked to move into the downtown hotel, offered him an alternative room at the Arroyo Seco Tiny Homes, but he preferred to stay in Eagle Rock to be near family.

By December 2021, Gabriel had set up his tent in the sidewalk encampment on N. Figueroa St. under the 134 Freeway. Like many of the people currently camped there, he had been deemed eligible by LAHSA to relocate to one of the Eagle Rock Tiny Homes, which are slated to open sometime in March.

Gabriel Estrada is the fifth unhoused neighbor I know of to die on the streets of Eagle Rock since 2018, including a woman in her 80s on Figueroa St. in 2018; a 25-year old woman, Sarah Marchain, under the 2 Freeway on W. Broadway in 2019; a 62-year old man, Andres Sierra, also under the 2 Freeway on W. Broadway, and an unidentified male, in the Figueroa lot, both in 2021. Another unhoused man, known as Emilio around 50 years old, died on Eagle Rock Blvd. in Glassell Park in 2020. 

The added tragedy in Gabriel’s case is that when he died, he was just weeks from having a roof over his head, a place to call home. 

Jane Demian
Jane Demian is an outreach volunteer with SELAH Eagle Rock Highland Park, a chapter of SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalitions. She is the Homelessness Liaison and the Co-Chair of the Housing and Homelessness committee of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. Comments here do not represent SELAH NHC or the ERNC.

52 thoughts on “Rest in peace: Gabriel Estrada, age 38 and unhoused, dies in his tent in Eagle Rock

  1. Behind the headlines, the political and social rhetoric is this moving, poignant life story, that is offset by the difficult realities of the “disempowered” unhoused individuals in our city! It is also the story of a city that is chained to its own piercing inabilities and lack of priorities to help its citizenry. It is a City that has, in many areas of its humanitarian obligations, that has run amok. Bravo to Jane Demian for putting this perspective into the sad, tragic human calculus it has become.

    1. I know in my heart and experience from growing up in the area when it and surrounding places like Pasadena and Glendale were sleeping locals where there were so many other options before landing on the streets. It’s our national and worldwide tragedy that we’ve bought into the bright and shiny future of having everything material while we displace the very people who constitute the character of what we would call home.

  2. This is such terrible news about this young man. So tragic. My heart goes out to Gabriel’s family, and the people who knew him.

  3. Gabriel was a bright light in our community and we will miss him. It is beyond time to house all Angelenos.

    1. My friend for many years love him like my little brother I will miss him till we meet again ??

      1. Hey Jr, my name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I’m a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News, which has covered cities and neighborhoods near the Eastside and South L.A. since 2018. Gabriel’s story is one of many people experience experiencing homelessness go through. I was hoping you would be open to talking about Gabriel and his life along with this issue.

        Sincerely,
        Gerardo De Los Santos
        gdeloss@calstatela.edu
        323-301-0570
        UT Community News Reporter

  4. Gabriel we Love You And Always WILL..r.i.p. Friend

  5. Gabriel I always remember your laugh how your smile was the 1 thing everyone who knew you would remember!heaven just gained a amazing angel.say hi to Miguel for us♥️

    1. Hey Vero, my name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I’m a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News, which has covered cities and neighborhoods near the Eastside and South L.A. since 2018. Gabriel’s story is one of many people experience experiencing homelessness go through. I was hoping you would be open to talking about Gabriel and his life along with this issue.

      Sincerely,
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

  6. Gabriel I always remember your laugh how your smile was the 1 biggest thing everyone will remember!heaven just gained a amazing angel.say hi to Miguel for us♥️

  7. Time will never fade the good times we shared. Your memory will live on forever in the hearts of those who loved you. Send our love to Miguel too. Till we meet again rest in paradise homie

    1. Hello Lisa, my name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I’m a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News, which has covered cities and neighborhoods near the Eastside and South L.A. since 2018. Gabriel’s story is one of many people experience experiencing homelessness go through. I was hoping you would be open to talking about Gabriel and his life along with this issue.

      Sincerely,
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

  8. Time will never fade the good times we shared. Your memory will live on forever in the hearts of those who loved you. Send our love to Miguel too. Until we meet again rest in paradise homie

  9. Thank you for the story Jane; it really touched me and I wish I could have known Gabriel. These stories matter.

  10. Thank you for the in-depth story, Jane. I feel the people are honored by your words. It’s inhumane the way we treat our fellow people. A complex problem, yes, but still in the end, it seems very simple when a person die; no one should be on the street. He deserved so much more, as does his now fatherless daughter.

  11. May his memory be a blessing. Thank you for this memorial. I hope they have those homes open soon.

  12. thank you Jane D. for your story on the homeless folk. I live in a friends cold garage near that corner where the tiny home village is soon to open. I knew another homeless man who was run over a while back near the Vons on N. Fig. Chester lived and sat on the corner for many years. I hope the tiny homes project can help people but we may have a whole new wave of homeless coming soon. Nobody in these comments is talking about why the rents are so high and why and who decided not to build housing for the seniors and low income people of Highland park and Eagle Rock. Jane, I met you over 3 years ago explaining to you that I was a senior about to go on SS and I need housing in HLP. To this day I still am near homeless. Who has failed in their jobs at city hall? Why is nobody being held accountable. Why can people like Cedillo continue to run for office? things are not right and Jane, you seemed to have abandoned my plight. I tried to add you on facebook to seek help but you did not add me. You seem to evade me as if I am some kind of trouble maker. this is what gentrification does to Brown folk. Boulevard Sentinal is a newspaper for the White Homeowners and business owners. If Eagle Rock cant even put a sign in front of the Marijuana dispensary due to Marijuana Bigotry, how can I feel these compassionate comments about dead homeless are really compassion. I have not forgotten the ugly NYMBY comments from white folks of Eagle Rock who did not want that low income and Veterans housing in Eagle Rock. I am leary and wonder why Jane Damien and others are building their “activist” credentials while the rents costs keep going up and while Seniors cannot find a place to live in HLP and ER. If I am still without a home when the Olympics arrive to LA, I will not attend any Olympic events. I will boycott the Olympics.

    1. Hello John. I remember that we had a long phone conversation a while back when I was working as a volunteer with tenants. I don’t remember that you sent me a friend request on FB. I’m not on FB very much. I certainly am not evading you. I respond to e-mails and phone calls promptly but have not received a phone call or e-mail from you. I am a volunteer. I don’t work for the City, the County, a service provider or LAHSA. I do unpaid volunteer outreach to people living on the street. If you are in need of housing and live in Eagle Rock or Highland Park the best place to call would be the Council Office 323-254-5295 and ask for Matthew Tenchavez who is the Director of Homeless Strategies for CD 14. Regarding the need for low income housing and housing for seniors, I agree. I have been an advocate for low income housing and senior housing for years. The senior homeless population is growing, and yet very few housing developments are geared towards our low income senior population. Development of Permanent Supportive Housing under Prop HHH has been VERY slow and MANY housing activists including me have been critical of the process. Please reach out to Matthew Tenchavez or Sarah Flaherty in CD 14 so they can guide you to housing opportunities.

    2. Johnavalos:
      It’s all about survival. And the more we have the higher the bar to survive. So people, even those in our families, do inhumane things to others so life will be less cruel to to others. So you message is not in vain it’s worldwide.
      I hope you will not take it as a personal affront to you in this situation but the changes over the last 45 years have all been geared to making life better for the well to do and not serving the population as a whole. You appeal is not unheard. So many of us have a story. So keep posting and hopefully we will meet and help one another sometime in the future.
      Let me recommend Repair Cafe in Pasadena for a life line. They are good people who are able to provide services that go beyond the cash economy.
      My heartfelt wishes that you will persevere as this is really what living is all about.
      Don

  13. Rest In Peace..Thank You for all your efforts.

  14. My condolences to all. We should all be concerned about who our next Mayor will be. That race so far isn’t looking compassionate. Anyone and I do mean anyone can find themselves homeless. It can be a loss of a job, a serious illness, or a variation. In my case, my home was horribly burglarized and vandalized during the peak of covid19 and shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with an uncurable cancer (which is also extrenely difficult during a pandemic when no one can be at your side) and while in the hospital, my home was invaded again and again no matter how much we shored it up… and they even stole my husband’s ashes who had passed a few years ago from non smokers lung cancer. It has been a struggle as I’m now not strong enough to fight with my insurance cimpany who is doing their best to pay the smallest amount. This sum won’t begin to make my house livable again. I have stayed in hotels, with friends and yes, even in my car. You learn much about people and do find those you helped the most not willing to help in turn. I struggle to worj to oat a mortgage in a house I cannit live in and pay the added expense to those who house me. I have learned how expensive it can be not to have a kitchen. Yes, it can happen, one day to the next…to all of us.

    1. Hi DM. I’m so sorry that you have had such devastating loss these past few years. I hope you are working with social service agencies that can help you navigate return to your home, or at least find alternative housing for you. You are right: homelessness can happen to anyone.

    2. Hello Chavez, my name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I’m a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News, which has covered cities and neighborhoods near the Eastside and South L.A. since 2018. Gabriel’s story, as well as yours, are a few of many experiences people experiencing homelessness go through. I was hoping you would be open to talking about this issue, along with the concern over the next mayor, with me.

      Sincerely,
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

  15. Gabriel was a very friendly person. He was my brother’s friend from elementary school located here in Eagle Rock. Gabriel grandparents are located on Hill drive. And his father has property located here in Eagle Rock as well. Prayers for his family and children.

  16. Yes so sad. To many young lives my brother in law also passed in august of 2021. He was also homeless. He was staying at the corner of Argus and colorado. He was also a eagle rock native. So sad

  17. Christina…so sorry for your loss. I may have met him once or twice, but don’t know his name. Thanks for letting us know.

  18. Thank you Jane my daughter appreciates your story about her father. Gabriel was a very intelligent man. He loved his daughter very much, any chance he got he would tell me to tell her he loves her or have wonderful conversations with her. Despite what he was going through he would always make sure to tell her to do good in school. You will be truly missed Gabriel.

    1. Gaby, my name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I am a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News. I’m working on a story about Gabriel and would love if we can get in contact to talk about his life and how we was patiently waiting for the Tiny Homes to be opened in Eagle Rock. I will leave my contact info in the bottom, thank you again and hoping Gabriel, as well as your family, is surrounded by love.

      Sincerely,
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

  19. RIP Gabriel.
    Thank you Jane for all your work with the homeless, you are truly doing the Lord’s work…your hands are full. We’ve met & worked together on several homeless outreach efforts in the past.
    The homeless issue in Los Angeles is only getting worse. We live in a society that encourages & enables practices/addictions to flourish at the expense of our fellow citizens. We just lost another homeless person living out of his car at the Eagle Rock Plaza due to an overdose. How long are we going to let our citizens, our neighbors, our family members spiral out of control by letting their illness kill them. Yes, the homeless crisis is fueled by the high price of housing, no argument there, but the main reason everyone some how conveniently overlooks is that our homeless are on the streets because of drugs! The fentanyl scourge coming through the open Southern border is destroying this nation one drug user at a time.
    Why didn’t the family help Gabriel when they obviously had the ability to? I’m sure they tried… My guess is maybe Gabriel wanted to find his own way in life? I wish he would’ve found it before the end.
    Until we take drug use seriously, this nation is going to slowly rot from the inside.

    RIP Gabriel, you are missed.

    Prayers to family/friends for strength in this time of mourning & to you Jane for your continued work with the homeless. I hope the opening of the little homes in Eagle Rock is a success.

    1. Hey Citz, I hear your thoughts and was wondering if you would be opened to talking more about this issue with me. My name is Gerardo De Los Santos and I’m a reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News, which has covered cities and neighborhoods near the Eastside and South L.A. since 2018. Gabriel is one of many that was eligible for a tiny home and sadly passed before he was able to move in. I will leave my contact info in the bottom and hope to hear from you.

      Sincerely,
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

  20. This is such terrible news about this young man. So tragic. My heart goes out to Gabriel’s family, and the people who knew him.

  21. Thank you for the story Jane; it really touched me and I wish I could have known Gabriel. These stories matter.

  22. I still come back to this article every day. Thank you so much for writing about my father. He deserves to be remembered as an amazing person.

    1. Hey Destiny, I am sorry for your loss and hope you can find peace and comfort. The reason why I am trying to reach out to you is because i am a student reporter with Cal State LA’s UT Community News and first heard about Gabriel through Jane and wanted to further write about his story. I hope you would be open on talking about his life with me so we can reach more people with his story and the tiny homes situation, i will leave my contact info down below.

      My condolences
      Gerardo De Los Santos
      gdeloss@calstatela.edu
      323-301-0570
      UT Community News Reporter

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