Friends and loved ones of the man killed in a brutal assault in Vancouver’s Oppeheimer Park last week are remembering him as a compassionate, loving man who dedicated his life to serving the community.
Police say Jesus Cristobal-Esteban, 62, was violently attacked in the park that’s been home to an entrenched homeless camp for more than a year on New Year’s Day, and died in hospital the day after.
On Monday, dozens of people gathered for a memorial at the Watari Counselling and Support Services Society, an organization Cristobal-Estaban had poured endless hours into since his arrival in Canada from Guatemala more than 25 years ago.
“He was an inspiring person,” said Ingrid Mendez, executive director of Watari.
“He had a lot of love to give to people, and people really got it from him.”
Mendez, who knew Cristobal-Esteban for about 20 years, said he did not live in the park, but visited regularly as a volunteer.
She said he’d established a garden in Oppenheimer Park, volunteered at community kitchens, had led several park cleanups and even organized a Day of the Dead celebration there.
“Jesus was an extraordinary human being. He was the kind of person that wanted to help, to support people, his community,” she said.
Friend Jill Scott called Cristobal-Estaban a “good man” who had a “huge” impact on the community.
“He was here for everything, just was the first person to step up and volunteer and just laugh. Laughing all the time,” she said.
Mendez said Cristobal-Esteban is survived by his children in Guatemala, cousins in the Metro Vancouver area, and a romantic partner in Vancouver who she said is struggling with his death.
Vancouver police said they continue to investigate the homicide, but had no update to provide on Monday.
Cristobal-Esteban’s death has renewed the call by some for an injunction to clear the homeless camp from the park. Police have repeatedly called the park a “magnet” for criminal activity and said a “direct nexus” exists between it and growing violent crime in the Downtown Eastside.
Park supporters, however, have said there’s no use moving the homeless out of the park until there is safe, stable, long-term housing for the campers rather than just homeless shelters.
Campers have also called on the city to add resources to the encampment to make it safer, including warming tents and washrooms.