Elgin homeless blogger remembered for giving 'a voice to the voiceless'

  • Joe Misek, director of Street Reach, speaks at Elgin's Vineyard Church on Friday at a memorial service for Doug Henke, a homeless man who wrote a blog about his life.

      Joe Misek, director of Street Reach, speaks at Elgin's Vineyard Church on Friday at a memorial service for Doug Henke, a homeless man who wrote a blog about his life. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • People remained socially distanced at the memorial service Friday for Doug Henke at Elgin's Vineyard Church.

      People remained socially distanced at the memorial service Friday for Doug Henke at Elgin's Vineyard Church. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Doug Henke lived in Tent City, an unofficial camp where many homeless people live in Elgin, to a more quiet location to the north, on the Fox River, but was then forced off that property because it wasn't the city's land.

      Doug Henke lived in Tent City, an unofficial camp where many homeless people live in Elgin, to a more quiet location to the north, on the Fox River, but was then forced off that property because it wasn't the city's land. John Starks | Staff Photographer, Jan. 2

 
 
Updated 6/26/2020 10:21 PM

Doug Henke's lasting contribution to Elgin, and beyond, will be his unapologetic, opinionated advocacy for the homeless, those who knew him said Friday.

Henke, who died recently, would have turned 58 on June 12. He wrote about how he lived in dwellings in the woods in his "Arthur: Notes from the edge" blog on Facebook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A memorial for Henke was held at Vineyard Church in Elgin by Street Reach, a ministry for the homeless and others in need.

"Some of my thoughts and some of my heart toward this ministry was shaped because he was sharing it to people all over the world," Street Reach Director Joe Misek said.

Henke made an impact by speaking at city council meetings and at meetings for homeless initiatives, and loved to engage in deep conversation about a multitude of subjects, Street Reach volunteer Greg Schiller said.

"We talked about just about anything," Schiller said. "You name it, he could talk about it. Politics, the world, the church, the library itself, Elgin ... the state of the homeless."

Henke was estranged from his relatives. He grew up in South Elgin, served in the U.S. Navy for a little over a year in his 20s and had accounting jobs over the years. He earned a bachelor's degree eight years ago and had been homeless for a few years.

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He was candid about struggling with alcoholism and bipolar disorder.

"He was a hurting soul that used alcohol to numb that pain," Schiller said.

Henke's last blog entry was May 23. His body was found June 11 by Elgin police after the Daily Herald contacted the police department about his welfare.

"He was a good man," said his friend Sue, who declined to give her last name, saying her family doesn't know she's homeless. "There was something he liked about every person he ever met. He just didn't like to let people to know."

Another friend, Tommy, who said he's a "couch surfer" and also declined to give his last name, said Henke always tried to move forward in life, even if in his own terms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We all have our dark sides. We all have a challenge," he said.

Lynne Kern of Huntley, who attended the memorial with her husband, said she met Henke about three years ago when she started dropping off candles for residents of Tent City, Elgin's year-round homeless encampment. Over time, she began to meet him at Gail Borden Public Library, which he loved to frequent, and at restaurants, the last time in January at Al's Cafe in Elgin.

"He certainly touched me," Kern said.

Through his blog, Henke touched a lot of people, Misek said.

"In every population, particularly the marginalized, someone has to provide a voice to the voiceless. And he did that."

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