Early Thanksgiving morning, Ray Medina’s promise to himself that he’d weather the winter in his tepee perched on the banks of Fountain Creek was broken.
He was found dead outside the tepee by his campmates with whom he had spent much of Wednesday drinking and laughing, they said.
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office did not return a call Monday seeking Medina’s cause of death.
Medina, 53, was featured Monday in a Gazette article on the city’s growing homeless population camping along the creek. He was interviewed for the story Nov. 24, two days before his death.
His friends and neighbors on Monday recalled a generous man and a hard worker.
“He worked his butt off. He was not lazy,” said Cynthia, a neighbor who discovered him dead Thanksgiving morning. “He wanted to keep himself alive.”
Medina had recently put down a cardboard floor for his tepee. He gave his camp mate Dave a tent when the tepee was finished, and he recently joined his neighbors selling flowers.
His camp was among the neatest along the creek last week. He kept leaves raked, pots clean and trash at bay.
Medina said he came to Colorado Springs from Grand Junction about three years ago after hearing there were construction jobs at Fort Carson. He moved to the creek about four months ago, he said.
“None of us really want to be here,” Medina told The Gazette. “I’m hoping (construction) will pick back up, hopefully in the spring.”
“He was convinced he was going to get a job and get off the street,” said officer Dan McCormack with the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. “Obviously his plans weren’t working out for him.”
Medina didn’t make much use of available services but spent much of his time directing others toward help and handing out tents, blankets and other goods to fellow campers.
“He was just a good man,” said his neighbor Ron. “He was a pack rat. He’d pick something up and as soon as he found someone who needed it, he’d give it right away.”