Sunday, March 8, 2015

RIP Donna Harris



Felton Davis, who works at Maryhouse on East Third Street, shares the following with us about Donna Harris, a homeless resident of Avenue A/Tompkins Square Park these past five years...

Donna was long known to us at Maryhouse, and had a ton of stuff in storage here. She was photographed with her friends here on Christmas day of 2014.

She told me she couldn't spend another winter in the Park, and was going to accept some sort of hospitalization in 2015. She stopped by Maryhouse last weekend for her mail. And then the temperature dropped, and the last snowstorm of the season took place.

And Donna made her departure.

She died last Monday. She was 52.

Several people memorialized her outside the former Odessa Cafe and Bar at 117 Avenue A near East Seventh Street, where she often slept on the sidewalk.





Updated: A memorial service for Donna takes place on March 21. Details here.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very sad news. I saw her on my corner often, and would stop to ask how she was doing. She was very sweet and never asked for help, although I would give her a few bucks or buy her breakfast. There but for the grace of God go I - may she truly rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

She died Monday evening at her boyfriend's home in the Bronx.

Anonymous said...

Based on the attention, comments and money involved its clear that the EV values a lost dog more than an actual person. May she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Rest in peace. She was always sweet & I'd help he when I could, as I'm headed down the same road. The kindness of others can make life that much better. There but for the grace......

rainer. susan. kim said...

so so sad!! {i used to sell her coffee every morning {donna {R.I.P {she always talked about her kids

darbi said...

What sad news. I will miss seeing her on our block. Godspeed, Donna.

Unknown said...

Ah, I heard about this a few days ago. I always walked her to Mcdonalds and gave her a few bucks so she could sit in there all night when it was below zero out. Will be weird to not see her on Avenue A now. RIP.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon March 8, 2015 at 10:12 AM:

Based on common sense, it's clear that people are more concerned about a poor innocent dog who could have been sold into a dog fighting ring (after having been born into an abusive situation and rescued from it) than a homeless drug addict who chooses to sleep in a park. Sorry, but that is reality. Her life decisions are what got her there, and while it's incredibly sad that she passed away, her circumstances were in her hands. Sugar's situation is something that was a result of another horrible person's actions, and it's something that could be fixable and have a happy ending should she be found - that is why there is the outpour of love and sense of urgency, and the reason that the money is in play. And btw, the chances of someone actually accepting the reward money for Sugar are so low, anyone involved thus far has pledged to donate that money to a rescue organization should they find her. It's not about the money, it's about what pulls on your heart strings.

Mike Diaz said...

I'm sorry she passed but she was never nice. It's weird how people memorialize people like her, jewels and hot dog (yes I know she's still alive) but disregard hard working people who try every day. rIP lady but I wish better lives for you all

Anonymous said...

Mike, I'm not sure people memorialize the dead that perhaps led lives that were drug addicted and less productive than them. It , I think, is more about feeling sad that as a society we failed them. And , to those comparing the search of Sugar, that as well is an example of us, as a community , failing to help the mentally ill. (And maybe drug addicted)

Makeout said...

FUCK. Important but your sad news sucks Grieve.

Anonymous said...

RIP..sad she died but causes me to wonder why she did not spend the winter at her boyfriend's apartment during this cold winter we had? I heard the same thing that she died at his place also.What gives with that?

Jake Rat said...

She's the lady who camped outside at Ray's. I used to buy her a cider now and again when it got cold. She is roughly the same age as my mom. Its true she wasnt always a pleasant character, but hey you guys, like, we dont all have the advantages of a sheltered life or upbringing. She was a very human fixture and very important part of our neighborhood, she went through a lot of things that most of us hopefully will never have to ever imagine, and she kept us always reminded of who we are as villagers. I hope her daughter will find the right kind of support. This makes me incredibly sad, regardless that we all have seen this coming for many years. That camping space between Odessa and Rays will never look the same. Ray knew more abut her than anyone in social services and stuff... 25 or 30 years of just hangin out. Godspeed Donna.. sweet soul..Hope and benevolence be on your side

Felton said...

Ray's birthday party with strippers dancing on his store counter got 34 comments, more than Donna, more than the missing dog, more than rent-paying tenants getting evicted from buildings where they have lived for years, and more than the list of bars participating in Santacon.

Anonymous said...

Nice rant but you still sound like a heartless dick.

Anonymous said...

Every life matters, no matter what -- good decisions, bad decisions, whatever. RIP.

bayou said...

Felton, the feel good stories - especially about Ray - are few and far between. I wouldn't read into the volume of comments or begrudge EV Grieve readers. Also, in all fairness, a dog is an innocent, away from home through no fault or action of her own. The neighborhood texture will indeed be different without Donna.

Anonymous said...

The dog has more comments than Ray. Do any of you idiots have a clue what the day to day reality of a homeless woman is like? You have no clue. You talk about decisions. Typical 2015 EV mentality. Not one person asked about her funeral or memorial service. Because you dont fucking care. Youd last all of 5 minutes in her shoes. You make me sick.Youre better than her because you can drink at expensive bars and use drugs in your apt? The place someone else had to sign for because you needed help? At least she passed inside and you question that too? Heartless pieces of trash. RIP. #homelesslivesmatter

Anonymous said...

So, we are supposed to show up to a funeral of someone we don't know, haven't traded a word with (she never spoke to me, nor I her), and just really have nothing to do with other than living in the same neighborhood? Are we supposed to do that for every funeral of everyone who dies in the EV? Or otherwise are we "bad people" because we don't fucking care. So, what's your answer genius? We just go around to complete strangers' funerals all day? According to obits, a former ironworker died in Madison, Wisconsin. But, you didn't ask about his funeral, so I guess you are a heartless piece of shit. See how that works? Stop being a self righteous dick.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. I talked to Donna once in a while in the park and she was very sweet and friendly. May she rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Very sad news. Donna was a kind human being. She will be missed.
Melanie
East Village Corner

Anonymous said...

You can call me all the names you want. I clearly hit a nerve and you don't like it. I just pointed out how nobody cares. Period. Of course you never spoke to her. You were probably busy staring at your phone watching an episode of "Girls". I just thought it was interesting no funeral or memorial service was mentioned. People who live in a neighborhood usually know the people they see every day. I know that in the gated community/flyover state you're from that's not the case. But that's how the EV and NYC used to be like. I guess Taylor Swift didn't mention it in her song so you don't know that. I never said I was a genius but I do know that pieces of trash like you moved here and ruined the hood. I guess knowing your neighbors and caring more about the homeless than some rich persons dog makes me a self righteous dick. So be it. And the real answer is to help make your neighborhood a better place. It means talking to people- even those who have hit rock bottom. And doing something that doesn't involve an app.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why I should get a "case of the feels" for a stranger's death. People die all the time. Am I supposed to weep every time a human passes away?

@Anon 10:18 Why would I want to spend 5 minutes in her shoes? I worked hard all my life just so that I wouldn't have to spend even a single second in a position like that! Or am I evil just because I think that it's nice to have the good things in life and able to spend money when a loved one is in trouble (as in Sugar's case)?

Get off your high horse.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 4:08pm. Your comments are repugnant and vile. No one is asking you to give up the good things in life or doubting your hard work. Most street homeless are mentally ill. Of course they may also use drugs, but that is usually to deal with the symptoms of their mental illness. It is rare that anyone who is not mentally ill lives on the streets. That said the shelters are dangerous places filled with strangers and the curb outside of Ray's to Donna felt like a safe place as there was a community of people. You may not like that type of community and feel that you are above that community, but I hope no one in your family is ever diagnosed with a serious mental illness and winds up on the street like the folks in the EV. I hope they find Sugar, but I also am getting a bit tired of the enormous amount of attention this is getting, while when someone from our community dies, the attention is minimal. I want to thank EV Grieve for posting these type of stories as it is a way of showing respect for a human being who lived amongst us and died. I hope you get some help for all the hatred you seem to have in your heart, and hope you never find yourself relying on the kindness of strangers.

Anonymous said...

Why do people who claim to not care about this or that spend so much time commenting on whatever it is that they claim to not care about?

Anonymous said...

How sad for Donna that the thread turned in to such a crazy arguement.

Scuba Diva said...

I was kind of shocked to hear this news Donna had died. I recall talking to her a few times and she mentioned "getting her paperwork together" so she could find a place; I really thought she was going to get it together, to tell you the truth.

I never got the sense she was an addict; remember, people, in this day and age, you don't have to be a drug addict to be homeless, and you don't have to be homeless to be a drug addict.

She talked about making a birthday party for her daughter, and really wanted to be as much of a part of that girl's life as she could. I'm going to miss seeing her around the park.

Anonymous said...

If you dont respect the homeless.... you have absolutely no idea what this neighborhood is about or how it came to be.
And if you dont understand what mental illness, alcoholism, and ultimately what it takes to live with that every day, then you havent lived in new york very long.

Former East Villager said...

To March 9, 10:18 am,

I just wanted to let you know that, even though I didn't know Donna, I read her story when it went live. My first thought was, 52 is so young. And then I thought, who will arrange the funeral for her?

Then I started remembering people who I used to talk to and give money and clothes to in the neighborhood, people I didn't see anymore in the last few years I lived in the East Village.

Anonymous said...

Donna would say hello nicely to my dog as we walked by, and I saw her at the Chinese take out Fei Ma. I can't remember ever saying hello or helping her out at all, truth be told, I never got involved because she seemed hopeless and it was scary to imagine what it was like for her. It's sad to hear that she's dead. I thought that's what the note on the building (near where she often slept) referred to, saw that before seeing this report.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad commentary on society to see someone out there on the streets and there is no where for he/she to go. Heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Did Donna speak at Markey Hayden Bena's memorial, reading from writing that was in his backpack?

EastVillageAnna said...

I circled back to this blog post from the news item appearing in the most recent "Village Voice". I did not see Donna on the street myself, but I am deeply saddened by circumstances of her life. My husband and I have lived for over twenty years on 1st Street, a few doors down from the Catholic Worker. Over the years we have seen buildings come down and much fancier structures go up, restaurants have opened their doors, as have galleries, coffee bars and shops. There is a culture of youth, affluence and success in the EV. There is nothing wrong with working hard and enjoying success. However, as a society, we are reminded that we are not all perfect creatures and some of us will fall. We are vulnerable to the same demons - addiction, mental illness, debilitating physical illness. Over the twenty years that I have walked past the Catholic Worker, I am reminded daily of the grace and love that is within us as community to help those around us who are hurting- a warm meal, a blanket, a place to sit quietly. We will never understand the complexity of Donna's life and the choices she made, but she was our neighbor. May she rest in peace.