His story was simply heartbreaking. Lawrence Bierl, better known as Larry, was homeless for decades. Many tried to help, but apparently Larry did not want to be helped.
In a devastating discovery – Larry’s body was found in a bus shelter in the frigid temperatures last month. The community was incredibly rattled. And angry. How could this happen, many wondered.
Now, a local business known for stepping up to help others – is raising money to prevent something like this from happening again.
For a limited time, Park Avenue Imprints is selling t-shirts and sweatshirts for just $15 to benefit the homeless in our community. 100% of the proceeds will go to Code Blue services through the WNY Coalition for the Homeless.
“These shirts will be an important piece of our awareness program. This is Buffalo and this weather will happen again,” said Jean Bennett, Director of Housing and Homeless Services Restoration Society, “The funds raised through the shirt sale will be used specifically for Code Blue which provides a safe place to stay, meals, and linkages to much needed services.”
T-Shirts are available in both Mens and Ladies, Short or Long Sleeve and printed on Gildan Brand products. All shirts are black with a 2-color front imprint and 1-color web address on the back. You can buy the apparel at parkavenueimprints.com
The WNY Coalition for the Homeless was founded in 1980 and has continued to serve the community for more than three decades, empowering and advocating for individuals who lack safe, affordable, permanent housing. Over time the Coalition has grown and now includes approximately 50 different agencies. You can find more information and more ways to help at wnycoalitionforthehomeless.org.
Larry’s family recently spoke out about their loss. This article was written in the Amherst Bee:
Everyone knew him, yet no one knew him. And that was how “Larry” wanted it. The following is an email that I received from a family representative, Marissa Bierl.
“This past week the Bierl family suffered the tragic loss of our brother, Larry. We also know the Williamsville community feels a great sense of loss as well and mourns with us. Much has been said of our brother and most all was kind and well-meaning. We also know that many have questions about what and how his life came to be. We can assure you that even though we could fill in many blanks of his life, we have many questions as well.
“Larry was the second of six children. Born in Buffalo, he grew up in the Delavan/Bailey area. Contrary to many sources, he did not serve in the military and was not a Vietnam War veteran. In fact, Larry spent his time after high school earning a college education and eventually graduating with a master’s degree. His first job was with a national airline out of the area.
“It was during this time that something in Larry changed. Because he did not live in Western New York at the time, our family didn’t immediately grasp or understand what Larry was going through. As our parents became more aware, they sheltered our siblings from the severity of the situation and spent many years trying to get him help while also persuading him to get help for himself.
“Over time, mental illness overtook Larry’s life and it became harder to communicate with him. While he drifted around the country at first, he eventually returned to Western New York. Early on, he moved around the city of Buffalo and spent time on the University at Buffalo’s South campus. He then migrated in and out of Williamsville but eventually became a permanent fixture in the community.
“Our parents have since long passed, and we can tell you that his illness took its toll on their lives. While our family felt helpless, we took comfort in knowing that he must have felt safe in Williamsville — as he chose to stay.
“Our immediate family, relatives, friends and social services continued to make contact and offer help over the years. But as most of you know and encountered, Larry never asked for anything and rarely accepted help. While Larry’s illness was easy to see on the outside, it certainly didn’t make it easier to “fix” or convince him to seek treatment. As hard as it might seem for others to understand, his resistance to seek help or assistance became something that – much to our sadness and heartache – our family had to accept. We can assure you that it was not for lack of effort, concern or love but instead a consequence of the gravity of mental illness.
“We are extremely grateful to the Williamsville community. Over the past years, you did not judge Larry but instead accepted him for who he was. His life became very simple, yet delicate. Daily, you offered him coffee, a meal, and more importantly a kind word, and that was all he needed and wanted. We’d also like to thank the Amherst police for their understanding, compassion and support for our brother.
“We are touched by the kindness and generosity of the community and those that raised funds in memory of Larry. It is our wish that these donations go to those in need, like Larry.
“We again want to thank the people of Williamsville for all you have done by helping our brother and making him feel safe in your community.
(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)