The founders of Maslow’s Army, a group that helps people battling addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness, said in a Facebook post that Ken Martin, 55, succumbed to the cold while at a bus stop in the middle of the city.
“We lost a friend and dear Maslow’s Army family member due to a senseless death,” they said on Facebook. “You will be missed as you were so loved and cherished.”
The coroner’s office confirmed that it had a Ken Martin, but told The Enquirer that the cause of death has not yet been released pending an autopsy.
However, Maslow’s Army co-founder Samuel Landis, said he had called the coroner’s office and the person he spoke with told him that Martin likely died from the cold. He said he didn’t think Martin had any health issues that would have caused his death, aside from an alcohol addiction.
The high for that day, according to Weather Underground, was 26 degrees with a low of 15 degrees and an 8 mph wind.
Samuel and his wife Susan Landis said that Martin had come into their lives about a year ago when they were doing outreach near Cincinnati’s central business district at Fountain Square. They handed out food and clothing, and offered peer-to-peer support for people on the street.
They said that after a few weeks of knowing Ken, he decided to join them and became one of their hardest-working volunteers.
“He was inspired to get his life together and began taking steps towards self improvement. For well over 5 months Kenny continued to serve with Maslow’s Army during our Sunday outreach and he was able to show others that change is possible through his personal testimony,” they wrote.
Martin struggled with his addiction, and in August they said he had a slip-up that he never recovered from. They tried to help him, they said, but he declined their offers, saying “I am just not ready yet.”
They remembered him as a humble, honest, and compassionate man who would give you his last dollar if you needed it.
“Everyone who knew Ken could say that Ken was their friend,” they wrote.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” Samuel said via phone. “If it was cold and he had a jacket on and somebody says ‘I’m cold,’ Ken would have taken his jacket off. He loved his fellow man.”
The Landis family is planning to hold a memorial for him on Jan. 28, and are asking people to donate gloves, hats, coats, and scarves in his honor. They are also asking for donations for his funeral costs, which they have taken on.
Martin’s death has prompted them to call for a 24-hour homeless shelter in the city, which they say is needed to prevent homeless deaths like this in the future.
“I don’t wish to profit from Kenny, however, I will not let the tragic death of my friend be in vain,” the Landises wrote on Facebook. “This is not acceptable.”
According to Kevin Finn, president of the Cincinnati-based organization Strategies to End Homelessness, there are two 24-hour shelters in the area, one on either side of the river, according to The Enquirer. They have both expanded their capacity for the winter, and Finn says neither has ever filled up.
“What they [the homeless] might not know is when the weather gets the way it is now, some of the rules and requirements that are in place during warmer weather months are not required,” he told The Enquirer.
Samuel Landis said that while there are 24-hour shelters in the area, they can be far for someone without transportation to get to, and there may be requirements to get in. He acknowledged that some places have started opening their doors around the clock after Martin’s death.
They are eyeing an old jail that has been unused for several decades as a potential 24-hour homeless shelter, Samuel said, but first, they need the funds to fix it up.
If and when they do, they plan to put Martin’s name on it.