Former NEOCH Staff Dies

Joshua Kanary

NEOCH was fortunate to have Joshua Kanary work for us between 2005 to 2009.  He began his career as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member serving the United States for two years here locally.  He was soft spoken and would go out of his way to help people.  We received word from two former employees that Josh had passed away over the last two days. Larry Davis, our volunteer coordinator, was hired by Josh and worked closely with him at our West Side location.  He could not believe the news, and wants to gather people for a local remembrance.  We are all terribly sad today to hear the news of his death at such a young age.  It makes us step back and want to hug our own loved ones.  We want to tell our co-workers that they are doing a great job for such little pay.  It forces us to reflect on the positive impact we are making in the face of such adversity, stupidity and pettiness that we all have to deal with everyday in this job. 

After leaving NEOCH, he received his Masters of Social Work from Cleveland State and really wanted to help people with their individual struggles.  Josh always wanted to take a chance with our vendors and people who had sympathetic stories, and he got burnt a couple of times by these people.  But he had a big heart and peaceful outlook.  After his VISTA career, we hired Josh as a Community Organizer.  He helped us with our Voice Mail program, the Bridging the Gap program and moving some of our programs to other agencies.  He worked independently often alone at the West Side office. Josh did public outreach work for a year until the financial downturn when we had to lay him off.   I wish that we had enough money to really work toward an end to homelessness in Cleveland.  I would have hired him back in a second to assess individuals and implement programming that actually moves people into housing.

Josh married after leaving NEOCH and moved to Mentor.  He worked as an intern for Congressman Kucinich's office and had worked out in Lorain County for Catholic Charities.  Josh did a lot of work on the Homeless Stand Down in the past as a volunteer and staff, and performed on guitar at our Homeless Memorial Day three or four times.  Our hearts go out to his wife, Julie and his family back in Toledo.   He was a quiet and respectful individual who seemed consumed by trying to improve society.  He trusted people that he met, and could listen to problems people were facing for hours. I always enjoyed hearing his perspective on issues facing homeless people, and he was a good barometer of the perspective of the average Clevelander.  I could ask Josh, "How will this play in Parma?" He always had a remarkably accurate and inciteful response.   Josh helped us with the Street Newspaper and wrote a couple of stories in the paper  (we will post a number of his stories in the next few days).  He helped with advocacy around re-entry, public housing, and TB issues for the Coalition.  Josh was responsible for finding Street Voices speaking engagements and helped to improve our public education programs to dispel myths about homelessness.  It is a terrible loss of a talented young man.

Brian Davis

UPDATE:  We have posted a page of stories that Josh wrote for the Homeless Grapevine newspaper here.   This is the link to the Toledo Blade obituary.

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