This is one in a series of occasional updates on the lives of people featured by STAT during our first year.

Dwane Allan Foreman’s long story had a bittersweet ending.

In February, STAT wrote about Foreman’s tale and detailed the desperate situation faced by America’s aging homeless, who frequently cannot secure hospice care in their final months, leaving them to die on the streets with great pain and little dignity.

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Foreman was born on July 4, 1948, in Los Angeles and started drinking alcohol at a young age. At the age of 22 he visited the apartment of a friend named Tank, hoping he might learn how to play bass guitar. Instead Tank pulled out his works and his heroin and taught Foreman how to cook the drug, how to pick a vein, how to stick it.

Foreman was instantly hooked, and his lifetime addiction cost him the custody of his children, three prison terms for credit card fraud, countless jobs and relationships, and, finally, his home. In the winter of his 69th year, it led him to the cold shelter of a Volvo station wagon, parked on most days on a cul de sac filled with broken glass, highway noise, and men from the shelter up the block.

He suffered from hepatitis C, HIV, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer, and when I met him in January, he weighed roughly 100 pounds and looked emaciated in clothes that, he said, fit him a year earlier.

It took him nearly five minutes to ascend a flight of stairs, partly from his diminished breath and partly from the deep pain in his feet, but he nonetheless carried himself with great cheer.

His demeanor darkened at day’s end, when he faced another night in the passenger seat, battling pain and cold and noise and the prospect of dying amid all of it.

Days after we met, a friend found him unresponsive in his car and called an ambulance. Intensive care doctors initially struggled to stabilize him, but eventually he rebounded, and was discharged to an Oakland nursing home.

A short time later he returned to the streets — a common choice among homeless people with substance use disorders who end up in institutions with restrictions around drug or alcohol use, among other things.

Through the summer and fall his condition worsened. Friends and family visited him on the block but they would not take him in. He reconsidered and returned to the nursing home.

The care was not great. The nurses did not help him enough with his pain, said someone familiar with his situation, perhaps because heroin users often need vast amounts of painkillers to feel normal.

But he had a clean bed and comfortable clothes and a room with heat and air conditioning. He had medical care and personal care, and he was in a place where loved ones could always find him.

Dwane Allan Foreman died in October. He was 69, and he left behind five children.

While sitting in his car earlier this year, he spoke directly about a life of few accomplishments. He was not proud of much, but he was proud of his children. Not one of them, he said, used drugs.

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  • A time to weep….for the hopeless of this world shown in this one soul. Thank you for bringing his life and passing to us. I pray he finds peace in the arms of God. I will not forget Dwane Allen Foreman.

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