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"Tracy" Died Last Night, Memorial Service After Xmas

The 47 year-old homeless woman who was tragically killed in an early morning fire today came to Vancouver in November after living on the streets in the Abbotsford area for a number of years, Vancouver police reported today. "She was checked by our officers on at least three occasions overnight and offered shelter, which she declined. The officer that checked her last had a conversation with her, offered her a small comfort in the form of a cigarette, and lent her his lighter when she asked to borrow it to light a candle. Her activities after that are unknown and we are asking anyone who was in the area of Davie and Hornby St. in the time period between 12:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., and may have had contact with the woman, to call investigators at 604-717-3493."

Meanwhile, a passerby reported.
"I was at Davie and Hornby this morning, where a homeless woman accidentally burned to death,
trying to stay warm... I contacted the city to see if there was anything I could do to help...
this was their response. please read it, and pass it on. it's a hard time out there for a lot of people," writes Anne Marie Fleming, an artist, filmmaker and writer who lives in the West End.

She got this response from the city:
Subject: FW: To prevent homeless deaths tonight - please share this broadly

Dear Ann Marie - please let people who are living on the streets know that "Tracy" died last night.
And let them know we will have a memorial mass for her just after Christmas (we need to wait until her family has been contacted.)
And we will let them know as soon as we have a date and time.
Please let them know NOT to use fire to keep warm.

Ann Marie - they will be shocked and grieving to hear this news. And if you could take even one of the homeless people who knew her for coffee and just listen to them caringly for 1/2 hour or so - it would be a great gift.

I am genuinely comforted by your offer to help.

From: Graves, Judy [mailto:judy.graves,,,]
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 11:00 AM
Subject: To prevent homeless deaths tonight - please share this broadly
Importance: High

If you have any contact today with a person who lives outside, or any contact with people who know people who live outside, please tell them:

A very sweet middle aged woman died last night about 4:30 am at Davie and Hornby.
She had lit some candles in her shopping cart to keep warm. Something in her shopping cart caught fire.
She died a more horrible death than we can imagine.

Please ask EVERYBODY to remind their homeless friends and neighbours NOT to use fire to keep warm.
We had one man die last winter from a little cook stove, and his girlfriend lived but is horribly burned and traumatized.

We do not want anyone more burned.

When people refuse to come into shelter, it often seems they are being ornery. But there are reasons behind the refusal that are not always immediately apparent.

But once you have seen them try to get up the courage to enter a shelter, try to make several attempts to make themselves go through the door - and then turn around and come out again because being in a shelter is unbearable to them…

There are some mental illnesses that are a barrier to entering shelters, among them claustrophobia, social phobia, some forms of autism and some forms of paranoia. When you are speaking with people, this may not be obvious. They do not know they are ill, they feel normal. They do not know that other people do not perceive things the way they do. So to them - it appears that other people simply make other choices.

It is like - when you are 42 and becoming short sighted - if you do not realize that your vision is diminishing and that you need glasses, you tend to think that the books have become less interesting, and that the print in the phone book is too small. The process in a mental illness is similar, to the person experiencing the illness, the problem seems to be outside of them.

And whether you live inside, or live outside - please don't use candles or fire when you are sleepy.

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