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Council salutes Gale, pledging to do more for homeless

Friday, December 19, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin City Council Chambers were filled with the sound of “Silent Night” Thursday as dozens of people sang along with a playback of Jennifer Gale’s final appearance at the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting. Gale had signed up to speak at Thursday’s Council meeting, and members of the Council and the Channel 6 staff arranged to play the video of that testimony as a tribute following her death on Wednesday. Gale’s family has been contacted, but details on funeral arrangements are not yet available.

 

In addition to recognizing Gale for her dedication to the public good, several members of the Council used the opportunity to call for an increase in services for the homeless. “The way that the City of Austin embraced Jennifer Gale is a reminder of the better angels of all of us as Austinites. The fact that she died alone on a park bench on a cold winter night is a reminder that we have not lived up to our own better angels and to our own vision of who we are as a community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken. “We have work to do.”

 

Gale, 48, died outside of the University of Texas area church where she frequently camped.

 

Council Member Mike Martinez was even more specific in his proposal to help the homeless. “Jennifer struggled with several issues, one of them being homelessness,” he said. “If we would have moved forward last year and built the Mobile Loaves and Fishes project we all worked on, and it’s no one person’s failure, maybe she would have had a place to stay, independently, on her own. So I’m going to ask, in the name of Jennifer, that we keep working on that project and we make it happen.”

 

After each Member of the Council offered their remembrances of Gale, Mayor Will Wynn offered up a few final words. “Jennifer will be sorely missed,” he said. “Semper Fi.” Gale served in the Marines before coming to Austin.

 

Also during Thursday’s Council meeting, the Mayor urged those moved by Gale’s death to contribute to House the Homeless. The non-profit group holds a fund-raising drive each winter to pay for new thermal underwear for people living on the streets. Donations can be made through the group’s web site at http://www.housethehomeless.org/. By late Thursday afternoon, the collection plate set up at City Hall had accumulated about $700, according to Wynn’s chief of staff, Rich Bailey.

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