A homeless man who died last week while sleeping in an unheated garage was remembered by relatives on Wednesday as a hardworking family man who had been battling a drinking problem.
More than 30 mourners gathered for a graveside memorial service at St. Agnes Cemetery in Greenport to pay their respects to 43-year-old German Mendoza. The father of three was found dead last Thursday in a detached garage on Second Street in Greenport. Police said Mr. Mendoza, a native of Mexico, was discovered by a friend who was checking on him due to the cold weather.
Mr. Mendoza’s 19-year-old daughter, Guadelupe, who lives in Flanders with her younger sister, Giselle, 13, and brother, Jesus, 16, said her father always put family first.
“He was a kindhearted and hardworking man,” she said. “He had a drinking problem he could not control. Though he had his problems, he always did the best he could for his kids.”
Mr. Mendoza had previously been arrested “mostly for incidents which you would associate with being homeless,” such as public intoxication, petty larceny and trespassing, according to Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.
Record lows across the tri-state area last Thursday night — with a low of 5 degrees reported in Greenport — may have contributed to Mr. Mendoza’s death, authorities said.
Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, who officiated Wednesday’s ceremony in Spanish, began by thanking people for braving the cold to attend.
Temperatures at the memorial hovered around 30 degrees, according to the National Weather Service — at least 20 degrees warmer than the night Mr. Mendoza died.
To escape from the cold, Mr. Mendoza would stay at John’s Place, St. Agnes’ homeless shelter, when it was open on Tuesday nights, said shelter volunteer Jane Winsch. She described Mr. Mendoza as polite and quiet and said his death speaks to the problem of homelessness.
“They really don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “There are no warming centers.”
Rev. Dr. Ann Van Cleef, who also helps operate St. John’s Place, said much more needs to be done to help the area’s homeless.
“We are just in grief by Mr. Mendoza’s death and homeless as a whole,” she said. “It is a hidden problem in our area that needs to be addressed.”
While Mr. Mendoza’s death isn’t considered to be suspicious, it’s currently under investigation by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office.