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Upper West Siders trying to identify homeless man who died in Central Park

New Yorkers trying to identify homeless man who died in Central Park
New Yorkers trying to identify homeless man who died in Central Park 02:07

NEW YORK -- A man experiencing homelessness recently died in Central Park, and now many in the area are hoping to identify him so his family can give him a proper burial.

Candles and flowers lay on top of a rocky Central Park hill by West 63rd Street, serving as a somber reminder of the man who used to sleep there.

"He was a kind and thoughtful person. He was a lovely human being," Upper West Side resident Ellen Gavin said.

Gavin and her partner, Melinda White, first met the man they knew only as Jason in October of 2023.

Once they became his friends, they brought him boots, blankets and food after he refused their help to find him shelter.

"Very interesting, and yet, he lived up there with very little," Gavin said.

Two weeks ago, when temperatures took a drastic plunge in the city, Jason needed to be hospitalized.

"The police called us and told us that he passed," Gavin said.

But their remarkable connection with a person they met only a few months ago, and unaware of his last name, is still stronger than ever. They want to help him even after his death by getting in touch with his family.

"His body is unclaimed," Gavin said.

"It's just important to us that he just not be another John Doe," White said.

They drew up an amateur sketch of him, since they never took a picture, and plastered flyers all around Central Park, gaining attention across the West Side.

"It's nice to hear," one person said.

"It's just being human and respecting human beings," another person said.

"It's a compassionate sentiment," another person said.

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, there are almost 1,500 open cases for unidentified persons in New York state.

In New York City, bodies that are not identified get buried on Hart Island.

"Whenever community can come together and support one another, I think it makes everyone feel more secure that if something happens to them, that other people are going to care," said Melinda  Hunt, founding director of the Hart Island Project.

Gavin and White are stopping at nothing to help a friend.

"If you were a family member, wouldn't you want to know?"

The city looked up Jason's fingerprints in their database, but no results were found. At point, Gavin says Jason told them he was a member of the Coast Guard, so they're hoping his military background can help enhance their search.

If anyone has tips or thinks they know this man, call police at (212) 570-4836.

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