His Name Is Albert Take Action

Albert Garcia, Subject of Exhaustive Deceleration Reporting Project, Found Dead

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Albert Garcia (1967-2023). Image: Marisol Cortez

A year-long effort to get Garcia off the streets exposed shortcomings of local and state practices—even as the extreme cold of Winter Storm Uri took both of Garcia’s feet. Now extreme heat likely contributed to his death.

Greg Harman & Marisol Cortez

On August 12, after enduring nearly a month of almost daily triple-digit temperatures, our friend and neighbor Albert Garcia passed away beneath a highway off-ramp where he was living on San Antonio’s Westside. A one-time Lanier High School football player who aspired to become a motivational speaker at his alma mater, Garcia lost both feet and much of one leg while living unhoused during Winter Storm Uri in 2021.

Last year, Deceleration’s Marisol Cortez chronicled these struggles in a three-part series called ‘His Name Is Albert.’ This series emerged from Cortez’s direct involvement, as Albert’s neighbor, with a small team of volunteers working both inside and outside multiple levels of government for more than a year to get Garcia off the streets and into safe housing in 2022.

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Cortez’s investigative work exposed a range of shortcomings in the City of San Antonio and State of Texas’s policies and practices that make it difficult to move many chronically unhoused persons into stable housing

“Albert’s death points to the paradox of multiple systems in crisis, where the most vulnerable and medically fragile unhoused people are in fact the least able to access housing and care,” said Cortez, Deceleration’s Co-Editor.

READ: ‘His Name is Albert’

* Part One: Death By Climate Change
* Part Two: The Murphy Method
* Part Three: The Longest Night of the Year
* Deceleration.Live Panel Discussion

Watch this space or sign up for our newsletter for information about an upcoming vigil.

When Albert reappeared in the Collins Garden neighborhood beside Interstate 35 in July 2023, bible in hand in his wheelchair, he was unknowingly putting himself in the path of what is likely to go down as our hottest summer on record. San Antonio has seen more than 50 days of triple-digit temperatures since June. As of August 5, 2023, San Antonio’s Metro Health has recorded 477 cases of heat exhaustion and 18 cases of heatstroke. That’s nearly as many cases as the agency recorded in all of 2022, when it listed 489 cases of heat exhaustion, 14 cases of heat stroke, and 1 heat-related death.

sun27aug7:30 amsun8:30 amSunset Vigil for Albert Garcia & Fellow Climate CasualtiesBring flowers, candles, any other materials for constructing an altar

“Heat-related illness happens when the body’s internal temperature control system becomes overwhelmed due to prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures,” the Bexar County Heat-Related Illness Report for 2023 reads.

“The body struggles to cool down by itself, possibly resulting in harm to the brain and other important organs.”

A representative of the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Garcia’s death but has not released a cause of death as investigators have not yet notified a next of kin.

San Antonio Summer Temperatures, 2023

Garcia blamed a caregiver’s abusive actions toward another resident—allegations filed as an investigation with the state of Texas’s Adult Protective Services—for driving him from the group home he had been living in.

“This time, he didn’t survive long enough for the agencies charged with protecting the most vulnerable to locate housing options for him,” Cortez said.

We at Deceleration grieve Garcia’s passing. Despite the many hardships he lived through, Garcia remained kind, sweet, sarcastic, and funny until the end. We join others in outrage that the systems intended to protect Garcia were unable or unwilling to respond with the urgency required—much as they have failed to adequately address the climate emergency we are living through, which has caused the deaths not only of houseless people like Albert this summer in Texas but also of workers and incarcerated peoples.

RELATED: Deceleration’s bilingual Extreme Heat Survival Guide

We mourn not only Albert’s unjust death but all those people and communities, human and more than human, who will suffer first and worst because local, state, federal, and global governments fail to act with all due haste to transform our communities and economies into ones centered on care, protection, and justice.

A compounding tragedy: Garcia, who became sober once housed, relapsed into substance use within days of being pushed out of housing and onto the streets. With final coroner’s report still pending, It is unknown at this time if that may have also played a role in his death.

Deceleration thanks the field staff of District 5 Councilmember Teri Castillo, Maria Turvin of Yanawana Herbolarios, and Albert’s good friend Daniel Groven for volunteering their time and energy in assisting Garcia in recent years.

Call to Action

August 22, 2023—September 23, 2023

Yanawana Herbolarios has issued a call for city and state accountability “for all casualties of the housing, climate, and opioid crises” who care about “people and planet over police and prisons” to take the following actions (full press release here):

  • Tues, August 22 at 6:30pm: Give your input at the City’s Budget Town Hall for District 5 (Normoyle Community Center, 700 Culbertson Ave 78225). We need more resources for harm reduction services, housing options accessible to unhoused people with medical needs, and climate disaster preparations that consider the needs of the unhoused, outdoor workers, and incarcerated people! Register here to speak: https://www.saspeakup.com/sabudget2024
  • Thurs, August 24 at 6:30pm: Give your input at the City’s Budget Town Hall for District 2 (Second Baptist Church, 3310 E Commerce 78220). We need more resources for harm reduction services, housing options accessible to unhoused people with medical needs, and climate disaster preparations that consider the needs of the unhoused, outdoor workers, and incarcerated people! Register here to speak: https://www.saspeakup.com/sabudget2024
  • Sunday, August 27 at 7:30pm: Sunset Community Vigil for Albert Garcia at the intersection of IH-35 South and Floyd St, in the grassy triangle across from the Nogalitos St off-ramp (see map). (Livestream of event here.)
  • Wednesday, August 30: Citizens to be Heard. Share your words and thoughts about Albert and your vision of what needs to happen at the City level to prevent other similar deaths.
  • Friday, September 1 at 8am: Die-In outside of the State of Texas’s Adult Protective Services (3635 SE Military 78223)
  • Friday, September 8 at 8am: Die-In outside the City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services (100 W Houston St 78205)
  • Saturday, September 23 from 9am-1pm: Advocates March Honoring Houseless Community (gather at Bexar County Courthouse, 300 Dolorosa 78205)

Accounting for Heat Island

Deceleration drove across downtown between 3:30pm and 6:30pm on Thursday, Aug. 17, and measured temperatures in several downtown-area neighborhoods. Gauges at San Antonio International Airport during this time were reporting 105 degrees for the city. The temps we measured at Albert’s old campsite alongside I-35 were nearly 10 degrees hotter than that. Only shady spots in King William and Olmos Park were experiencing temperatures less than those KSAT was recording at the airport.

RELATED: See Deceleration’s resource mapping the hottest neighborhoods of San Antonio.


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