Local advocates reflect after homeless man’s death

January 26, 2012

Steps from the Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall and the Southwest Quad, the woods between Canal Road and the University’s southern driveway are home to a small community of the Georgetown neighborhood’s homeless. On Thursday, 19 Jan, 56-year-old Clark Carvaly’s body was discovered in a tent in the woods south of the University. A law enforcement official said he likely died of natural causes.

A Georgetown Facilities worker was first to notice his tent, and informed the Department of Public Safety. After DPS notified Metro Police, officers arrived and discovered Carvaly’s body. Foul play was quickly ruled out, and several hours later his body was removed for a coroner’s examination.

“It’s just sad. He was a person who developed really good relationships with my staff … and just a very kind person,” Kathy Sibert, Executive Director of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, said.

Gunther Stern, Executive Director of the Georgetown Ministry Center, works closely with the homeless population in Georgetown. Stern did not know Carvaly personally, but had heard about him from others.

“Everybody here talked about the guy and knew him. When I read about it I asked around and there was only a certain set of people who knew him since he sort of kept to himself,” Stern said. “He was a sick person … physically sick, and that’s the most people could say about him.”

Noting that Carvaly usually lived in northern Virginia, Sibert said, “The people I talked to who knew him were surprised he was where he was when he died.”

Sibert was less surprised, as she described the homeless communities of Rosslyn and Georgetown as relatively fluid. “People flow back and forth between those two areas,” she said.

At Georgetown, Hoya Outreach Programs & Education is the foremost organization dedicated to serving the needs of the homeless. Although HOPE runs many programs geared toward the homeless, none are specific to Georgetown.

“At this time HOPE does not have any programs that are directly geared towards those in Georgetown,” Ivana Robinson (MSB ‘13), a HOPE chair, wrote in an email. “However, we are currently working on expanding our current programs, such as Friday Food, into other areas of D.C., including Georgetown.”

“That’s one of the things I was a little bit surprised about with Friday Food. We do go to Dupont rather than Georgetown or Rosslyn,” said Mallory Carr (COL ‘15), one of the coordinators of HOPE’s Friday Food program, which distributes donated food to the homeless at Dupont Circle. “I do think that is something we should look into more.”

Georgetown students, both undergraduate and graduate, work with A-SPAN and GMC. Nursing students from the Medical School provide weekly medical care to the homeless at A-SPAN’s shelter as part of a course. “We have been really, really pleased with the participation with A-SPAN of the Georgetown nursing students,” Sibert said.

On our side of the Potomac, many Hoyas who volunteer at GMC are completing community service or sanction hours. Addressing the undergraduate community’s efforts to help the homeless, Carr said, “I think the students could definitely do more.”

Although University officials joined with members of the local clergy to found GMC in 1987 in response to the death of a homeless man in a Georgetown phone booth, Georgetown’s official role in the organization has weakened over the years. When asked if any University administrators or faculty are currently on the Center’s board or staff, Stern said, “[Associate Vice President for External Relations] Linda Greenan is on our board, but mostly in name—the answer is no.”

“Georgetown University itself doesn’t really do anything,” Ron Koshes, GMC’s Consulting Psychiatrist, said.

“I wouldn’t want to make such a blanket statement,” Stern added. “We don’t know.”

GMC is currently in the process of conducting its annual Point in Time survey, which gives the most accurate count of Georgetown’s indigent population available, and should enable the Center to offer more effective services to the homeless community.

Although the need for advocacy may not be as great as in other areas of the District, Georgetown still has a sizable homeless population. “I would estimate there are 60-70 people who sleep in and around Georgetown, and 100 percent of them are mentally ill. You can quote me on that,” Koshes said.

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    God bless Gunther Stern! A tireless man doing good works.