Each year for the past 15, Central Dallas Ministries has assisted low-income families bury their dead. While every situation is unique, all share in common a desperation and an anxiety impossible to describe. I find nothing more unsettling or difficult as the challenge facing very poor families when they've lost a loved one. On top of the natural grief, the burden of claiming the remains and finding a way to pay for burial often proves extremely difficult.
My own experience with these awful times drew me to the report below about the city of Detroit and the difficulties facing its morgue. The story reports on what may best be regarded as a symbol of urban despair in our nation's central cities.
Unburied bodies tell the tale of Detroit — a city in despairTim Reid in Detroit
The abandoned corpses, in white body bags with number tags tied to each toe, lie one above the other on steel racks inside a giant freezer in Detroit’s central mortuary, like discarded shoes in the back of a wardrobe.
Some have lain here for years, but in recent months the number of unclaimed bodies has reached a record high. For in this city that once symbolised the American Dream many cannot even afford to bury their dead.
“I have not seen this many unclaimed bodies in 13 years on the job,” said Albert Samuels, chief investigator at the mortuary. “It started happening when the economy went south last year. I have never seen this many people struggling to give people their last resting place.”
Unburied bodies piling up in the city mortuary — it reached 70 earlier this year — is the latest and perhaps most appalling indignity to be heaped on the people of Detroit. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral.
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