Man who died outside church found with only shirt, jeans, and thin blanket, advocate says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A man was found dead outside a Memphis church over the weekend, and an advocate of the unhoused in Memphis said he froze to death.

The man, known by his first name James, is described as in his 60′s and was found alone wearing just a shirt, jeans, and only a thin blanket to keep him warm, said “Bluu” Davis, an activist and advocate in Memphis.

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James was found next to the front foot of the First Congregational Church Saturday morning, Davis said.

An autopsy on the man is still pending, but his death came as the city dealt with historic cold weather.

“It makes you want to scream; it makes you want to cry,” she said Monday during an interview outside the church.

Davis said James’ death did not have to happen and that obstacles to staying warm increased the likelihood of a tragedy.

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Three warming centers were opened, but Davis said obstacles to access, including transportation and information, hindered more people from knowing where they could go for help.

“James was somebody who when he came to lunch people were happy to see him,” said Rev. Cornish, pastor at the church.

Cornish said James was a frequent visitor at her Food Justice Ministry, where 100 people are served lunch every day.

Davis said James’ death should serve as a call to action.

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“Everybody deserves to live their life, and I wish everybody would consider that,” she said.

The medical examiner is awaiting autopsy results on James and two others who may have died due to the cold.

An elderly man was found living behind a home right after the first round of severe cold weeks ago on Feb. 12, according to Memphis Police. A woman in her late 30′s who died days ago may not have had adequate heating in her home, police said.