Freezing homeless veteran honored with balloon release

Augusta, Georgia (WJBF) – Nearly a year ago, a homeless veteran was found frozen to death outside GAP Ministries. Today, the organization honors his memory.

Three days after Christmas last year, Willie Walker’s body was discovered in the cold. Her death was devastating to her friends and people working with the homeless community.

Today, GAP Ministries will honor his memory with a food distribution and a balloon release. In addition to the usual meal, they will also distribute fresh fruit to people in need.

Harvey Bend is the director of Harvest Field Ministries, which reports to GAP Ministries. He said Mr. Willie would have loved the tribute.

“I think he would say well played. That’s what I think he would say. Good game. He would feel truly honored. I don’t know if this has ever happened in his life, but he would feel like he was honored.

The volunteers worked closely with Mr. Willie and said they got to know him and cared about him. Bend became emotional as he spoke of Mr Willie, saying he was devastated when he learned of his death.

“After going through these experiences that we had with him, you start to develop compassion for an individual and worry about their suffering. So when I heard it was really…you want to see them fly. That’s the only thing I can say.

NewsChannel 6 spoke to District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson at the time of Mr Willie’s death. At the time, he said the tragedy and a conversation with Christopher Mulliens with the Freddie Mae Foundation prompted him to take a closer look at Augusta’s homeless population and find solutions.

“I think this situation puts us in a position where we should have an in-depth conversation about what it means to be homeless in this city. And explore the solutions. Not just accommodation solutions, but solutions that can help people transition out of one lifestyle and into another,” Commissioner Johnson told NewsChannel 6’s Kim Vickers in January.

We asked Bend if he thinks the city is doing the right thing to find those solutions.

“Lots of talk, but no real change, you know? Talk without commitment, you know? They don’t seriously engage with the issue. They get into the paper and they’re on TV and they look good talking about it. But they must be here. They must be here. Because you won’t really know what you’re dealing with until you’re in the middle of it,” Bend said.

NewsChannel 6 has contacted Commissioner Johnson for an update. We haven’t had a response yet.