Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dead (And) Broke In Milwaukee County

Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story about Reverend Debra Trakel of St. James Episcopal Church in Milwaukee. Reverend Trakel was performing a funeral service for a baby that had died on July 4, but whose body was never claimed.

From the article:
Tuesday’s was her first service for a child.

“No one should be buried alone,” she said.

Trakel began her funeral ministry in 2004 after reading a newspaper article about a homeless man who died of exposure in a parked van.

Her own church ministers to the homeless, feeding as many as 300 people a day, she said. But she realized that she’d never pondered the question: What happens to them when they die?

What happens, she said, is that the county arranges for their burial, but no service. In most cases, family or friends come forward to remember their dead. But there are always those who have no one.

It is sad that even little babies would not have anyone to say a prayer or some kind words unless these people volunteered to do so. Even then, they have to scramble to get it done, as that the county won't pay for the 10 or 15 minutes it takes to perform a basic service.

What MSJ failed to report was in the budget proposal for 2009*, Scott Walker wants to do away with all indigent burials, except for John Does. The proposal calls for reducing expenditures by $315,000, leaving $10,000 for John Doe burials. It further states that the anticipated impact would affect 300 to 400 indigent burials next year.

Disturbingly, the proposal does not say what will happen to those 300-400 bodies that are unclaimed, or which the family can not afford to pay for the funeral.

I guess, along with his belief that everyone in Milwaukee County should have and drive a car, he is expecting everyone that is poor to be kind enough to cross the county line before expiring. It is their civic duty after all.

Just make sure you're not caught dead and broke in Milwaukee County.

*I do not have a link, only a hard copy. For those who doubt the veracity of my statements, I will be glad to meet them at Kinko's, where they may make photocopies of the entire packet, at their expense.

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