NEWPORT — A homeless man by the name of Charles “Chaz” Hughes died on Saturday, Dec. 28, in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer store in Newport. Foul play was not suspected in the death, according to Newport Police Sergeant Mike Leake.
Leake said Hughes was found in the parking lot by Fred Meyer employees and was unresponsive. When Newport police officers arrived on the scene, they were unable to find a pulse. Leake said medics arrived at about the same time.
“CPR was initiated for 20 to 30 minutes, however, Mr. Hughes could not be revived and was declared deceased at the scene,” said Leake. He added that Hughes was seen about an hour prior to his death.
“Alcohol played a part,” he said, adding, “I don’t believe the elements were a factor.”
Hughes was known as a local homeless person who also frequented Lincoln City. Amanda Cherryholmes, Lincoln City manager for Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively (C.H.A.N.C.E.), which works with the homeless, said she was well acquainted with Hughes. She and her ex-husband used to play music with him in his home, she explained, noting that Hughes hadn’t always been homeless.
It was a series of relationship problems that led Hughes to his homeless state, Cherryholmes said, adding that is a common and relatable occurrence among the homeless population. Even in his circumstances, said Cherryholmes, “Chaz the Guitar Man,” as he was known, was generally bright and cheerful.
“His demeanor was so jovial,” she said, though Hughes was “homeless in the streets of Lincoln City for years.”
Traci Flowers, director of Grace Wins Haven and the Newport Warming Shelter, was also acquainted with him.
“It’s a shame that anyone should die alone on the streets, especially someone so talented,” she said.
Cherryholmes noted that Hughes’ death is not an isolated instance; “This year alone we have lost four people known to us. The number one thing that would have helped would have been having a shelter available.”
On Dec. 28, it was not expected to be below 40 degrees, so the emergency shelter operated by C.H.A.N.C.E. through the First Baptist Church in Lincoln City was not open.
The Newport Warming Shelter was not open either, as it only operates Sunday through Thursday nights at the Lincoln County Commons, explained Flowers.