Homeless man known to many dies of overdose


A drug overdose was the cause of death of a homeless man who was often seen staying under the Metra viaduct west of the CTA Montrose Blue Line Station and for whom residents have built a shrine after his death in October, officials said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner said that Lewis Pfost, age 51, died on Oct. 9, from combined drug toxicity of heroin and fentanyl. Pfost was found unresponsive near Montrose and Knox avenues, according to police.

Pfost was described as a "mainstay of the neighborhood" a resident said. "He was camped there every day sharing the light of life, sometimes with just a small, simple ‘hello,’" Mary Cunningham of the 4400 block of North LaCrosse Avenue said. "He showed incredible bravery just being there with his smile, everybody recognized him."

Pfost’s living site has since been turned into a roadside shrine in honor of his life, adorned with trinkets from passerby whom he formerly greeted on their daily commutes.

Dan Christianson, president of the board for the nonprofit Hands to Help Ministries, said the final period of his life was fraught with hardship.

"He progressively got thinner. We have an outreach worker that had seen Lewis a lot longer than I have," Christianson said. "But I could see he was getting thinner, wasn’t eating much, wasn’t working. Just over time, it grew worse."

Christianson, who also supervised outreach trips in the area, said that Pfost’s situation highlighted the difficult nature of assisting people experiencing homelessness.

"For many people out there, they’re afraid of doing anything else, they might be afraid of other people or situations they’re not comfortable with. They have multiple issues frequently, whether its physical issues, or economic issues, or mental issues, or social anxiety issues," Christianson said. "(Pfost) was a person who would talk to you a bit and be friendly, especially if you brought him food, but if you got too close even he would ask to back off and give him some space."

Christianson said that there were attempts from multiple parties to offer Pfost a new location, but that relocation efforts couldn’t be forced and it seemed that he didn’t want to move.