Homeless Berkeley resident Kareah Mendoza dies at age 39, remembered for compassion

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Homeless Berkeley resident Kareah Mendoza, known as “KK” to his family, was found dead on the steps of the Veterans Memorial Building last week, leaving his friends and family behind to remember him at a memorial Friday.

Mendoza had been homeless on the streets of Berkeley since approximately 2008, when his wife, Clementine, died, according to his brother Gabriel Mendoza. Many of his family members had not seen each other in years, but they gathered nevertheless at a small church in Oakland, the Biblical Awareness of Jesus Christ Pentecostal/Apostolic, to mourn Kareah Mendoza’s passing.

Kareah Mendoza was discovered by a passer-by at about 7:43 a.m. on June 22.

“The main thing I learned from my brother is that no matter where you are, you can show compassion,” said Gabriel Mendoza, who came to Oakland all the way from Spokane, Washington, for the memorial.

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Byron White said in a previous interview that the death did not look suspicious. The coroner is still weeks away from ruling a cause of death, according a previous interview with Sgt. Patricia Wilson from the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau.

No one at the memorial could remember how Kareah Mendoza got his nickname, but Gabriel Mendoza said he thought that someone at church had given it to him.

Kareah Mendoza’s sister Ophelia Englin talked about how musical he was. He enjoyed all kinds of music, but he especially loved rap and Tupac Shakur, according to Englin.

“You known you always want to be like your older sibling,” said Kareah Mendoza’s sister Josie Englin, who reminisced about how he inspired her to play the drums because he played drums at church.

Kareah Mendoza’s family members unanimously lauded his kindness, talking about instances when he would go out of his way to help them. His sister Sharon Englin talked about an old woman whom he would consistently help up a set of stairs while carrying her bags.

“This isn’t someone on the street; this is an actual human being,” said Gabriel Mendoza, who spoke with other family members about how more needs to be done to help the homeless.

Members of the family said Kareah Mendoza struggled with alcoholism, which was part of why he was homeless, according to their GoFundMe page meant to find him, since they had not heard from him in years.

Bernadette Okereke, a member of the Gilbert and Virginia Agnai Foundation — which helps the homeless by providing basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter — was at the funeral to support the family.

Okereke said the foundation did not have any political action planned in the wake of Kareah Mendoza’s death, but the members want to support the family and see what it wants to do.

“I want to create a program of transformation,” said Sharon Englin, who wants to create a kind of program that would help homeless people improve their lives.

Contact Jackson Guilfoil at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GuilfoilJackson.