The name of the man found dead behind the old post office in Grass Valley the morning of Dec. 26 was released Monday.
It took five days to locate next of kin for Kevin Lamar Kuhn, said Nevada County Chief Deputy Coroner Rich Fevinger.
“It’s atypical,” Fevinger said. “We always can find the next of kin rather quickly, usually on the same day. In this particular case, it was a little more difficult. He didn’t have much family out there.”
Kuhn, 49, was temporarily homeless after having problems with his common-law wife, Fevinger said.
“They had some kind of domestic disturbance, so he moved out of the house mid-November,” he said.
The holidays can be difficult for anyone but are especially tough for the homeless, said Cindy Maple, executive director of Hospitality House, the area’s leading shelter and services provider.
“The holidays can be hard on anyone not connected or not having anyone close by,” Maple said. “Imagine if you didn’t have a home on top of that.”
Maple said the Hospitality House staff is mourning the loss of Kuhn, who visited the shelter multiple times.
“The feedback from everybody was that he was a very kind and gentle soul, and it’s so hard for everybody,” Maple said. “We’re in this business because we’re trying to prevent that from happening.”
The challenge of exposure is exacerbated by the effects of alcohol, which lowers the core body temperature, Maple said.
“The problem is when you’re drinking, you don’t feel it,” Maple said. “They feel the flush, warming them up in the cold, but in reality, their core body temperature is dropping.”
Kuhn, who was found in the stairwell behind the post office covered in blankets and near alcohol bottles, appeared to have died from alcohol-related issues, Fevinger said. Maple said exposure could have been a factor as well.
“I know other things were going on,” Maple said. “The fact that he was out there on a freezing night and drinking says to me exposure, but the coroner will make that call.”
There are no services in Nevada County to help homeless alcoholics, but Hospitality House focuses on helping the homeless and being supportive if someone is ready to choose to reach sobriety, Maple said.
“The goal of Hospitality House is to end homelessness for people, period,” Maple said. “And to get them the help they need because ultimately if they don’t, they’ll die … That’s going to be the outcome. I don’t participate in programs that enable that lifestyle at all, but our outreach work is totally for the purpose of getting people into the shelter so they don’t die.”
Maple said there has been an increase in awareness of the mentally ill and homeless in the area, which is the first step in addressing the homeless issue.
“As we become aware of the severity of the problems and the numbers of people that are out there, I think that awareness has been huge for our county,” Maple said. “What we’re seeing now is a higher number of mentally ill and higher co-occuring disorders — those who are mentally ill and with some sort of addiction. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re progressing.”
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