4 facts about the Utah homeless man who died in the heat this summer

Joe Howe appears to have been 39 years old, and his friends say he was smart and generous.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tents on “the mountain" in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.

Based on the few records available about his life, Joe Howe was 39 years old when he died.

He was homeless, living on the streets in Salt Lake City. And he used prosthetics because he’d lost both of his legs, which his friends think was due to diabetes.

But it was the extreme heat this summer, they believe, that led to his death.

His situation has illuminated how hard it is to be homeless with rising temperatures. You can read the full story on that here, including accounts from other individuals trying to stay cool while living outdoors.

Based on public records, it appears Howe was born on April 17, 1983, and he died June 18, 2022. Here’s a small glimpse into his life.

Who was he?

Friends and activists says Howe was known for his generosity.

Robin Pendergrast, a photographer and an advocate for the homeless in Utah, said Howe used to build little displays around his encampment, using brown paper bags and scrawling affirmations on them.

Pendergrast remembered there was always one that said, “Kindness.”

Passersby would leave food in them, beans and bread. And Howe would then pass out the supplies to those in his community.

“He was adamant about passing out whatever he got,” Pendergrast said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robin Pendergrast delivers water to people experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.

Where did he stay?

Howe stayed with a small homeless community on 600 East, between 400 South and 500 South.

The TRAX line runs nearby. And he would ask for spare change outside the Smith’s grocery store.

Where was he from?

Howe’s friends say he spoke with a Midwestern drawl. The police report noted he has family in Michigan.

Pendergrast said Howe also talked about living in Ohio before coming to Utah. The advocate said he had a complicated life.

Among his belongings when his body was recovered by police was a sex offender registry ID.

Howe had pleaded guilty to a class A misdemeanor in September 2014 to lewdness involving a child after parents reported seeing him touching himself under his coat at a park. He was away from the playground, according to the police report, but because of the proximity of kids, the charges went forward.

Pendergrast said that criminal record made it harder for Howe to get out of homelessness, even though he tried to improve and abide by the law.

How was he remembered?

Chris Christensen, who has been homeless in Salt Lake City for the past seven years, said the community here built a little memorial for Howe.

Christensen said they filled paper bags with rocks and wrote messages on them like, “We will miss you” and “We will always love you.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Chris Christensen, a man living on the streets of Salt Lake City, talks about losing his friend Joe Howe. Christensen was photographed on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.