SAN JOSE -- If they had gone on living, the three men likely would have remained forgotten, each one grinding out an existence with its own dismal particularity, the remorseless rattle and hum of hungry days and sleepless nights. In the shadowland of the homeless, they stayed nameless and faceless, answering to no one, taking no calls.
Then, in quick succession, they died from being out in the cold. And suddenly everybody cared.
Even in their spin through the news cycle, they never quite escaped the cloak of invisibility that homelessness assures. They were now "the homeless dead." But on Thursday they will be memorialized, along with 48 of their fellows, in a reckoning of those who failed to survive the past year on the streets of a county where the median annual income is $91,000.
The somber annual roll call at EHC LifeBuilders Boccardo Reception Center will include the names of Daniel Brillhart, Enrique Rubio and Daniel Moore, although a representative for the organization acknowledged that they would not get their names engraved on stone tablets until next year. They died after the cutoff date for the ceremony but got so much media attention that EHC LifeBuilders decided to add them anyway.
"It's heartbreaking to think that every name represents a real person whose life came to an end due to the harsh reality of living on the street," said Jenny Niklaus, CEO of EHC LifeBuilders. "This is unacceptable. We can and must do better as a community."
The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office originally counted one other man -- Andrew Greenleaf -- among four homeless deaths from exposure between Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 5. But he died in his family's Saratoga home.
Of the 7,631 people who are homeless in the county on any given night, according to the most recent census of those dwelling in the creek beds and downtown doorways, a clear majority are men, and that disparity was even more cruelly reflected by the dead: 48 men and 3 women in the past year, up from 38 in 2012.
But just as each life is specific, death in the cold and dark often looks the same. Weakened by disease, often by drugs, the homeless hug themselves when nobody else will, trying to keep warm.
Brillhart, 52, died in a trash-strewn area beneath Highway 87, less than an hour into the final Thanksgiving of his life. Rubio, 56, succumbed to the cold sometime before 3:53 a.m. on Dec. 4, when his body was found on Lincoln Avenue by police. Moore, 53, was found huddled on a cardboard pallet behind a Jack in the Box trash bin near Curtner Avenue on Dec. 5. The two Daniels suffered from diabetes, and Moore's right foot had been amputated.
When he wasn't panhandling at his regular spot by the drive-through, Moore frequently crossed the street to the Cathedral of Faith. In the food-distribution line, Cathedral staffer Krissy Zimmer recalled, Moore was a spectral presence, coming in quietly, collecting what he could carry and departing nearly unnoticed.
Brillhart, too, was a practitioner of the invisibility that many homeless people perfect to avoid attention. "He wasn't dirty or disheveled," said Kim Fredericks, a nurse who knew Moore and Brillhart for years. "You would pass him on the street and not know he was homeless. He was very handsome."
Volunteers at the Window at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, a mail drop for more than a thousand of the county's dispossessed, came to recognize Rubio from occasional visits, but he never registered there or at any of the county-funded shelters. "He was someone who came here to get food, to get what he needed and just move on," said Sharon Miller, who runs the church's homeless outreach program. "He wasn't someone who would socialize with anyone."
Even the deputy public defender who served as Rubio's attorney in 2010, after he was arrested for taking a shopping cart from a Save Mart, said through a spokesman she had no recollection of him. The only distinguishing feature that anyone thought to note about Rubio was the tattoo on his right hand, which, according to a police report, said "MEXICO."
"Most of these people are very quiet," said Saulman Valani, owner of Ranch Town Recycling, a block from where Rubio died. "They just want to keep their mouths shut, get rid of their cans and bottles, then get the hell out."
Brillhart had worked long ago at a San Jose auto body shop, but came and went depending on his sobriety. "It's sad to say, but I would have thought that he had died a long time ago because he really abused himself," said Frank De Santiago, who owned the shop. "He would be gone for three months and then he would show back up looking like a greyhound, all skin and bones, wanting to work for food and cigarettes."
As recently as a year ago, Fredericks saw Brillhart doing outreach with a faith-based group in a homeless encampment known as The Jungle. "He was well-dressed and housed at the time," she said. "He was doing really well. We talked a long time that day, and he looked so good. But he obviously relapsed."
Growing up near the Gardner Community Center, Moore had won contests for his artwork -- pieces his friends and family still treasure -- but he developed a lifelong addiction to drugs that soon led to sleeping in his car, then worse.
While giving Moore his government debit card, his sister, Barbara Moore, once found him dirty and smelling of urine. "He got extremely upset with me," she recalled. "He did not want me to see him looking like that."
Though Rubio's body was claimed last week by family, Brillhart and Moore still face the possibility of what the coroner's office calls "indigent cremation," because their families are unable to raise enough money to claim their remains.
For just a little while, maybe for the first time in their lives, their names matter. So here they are again: Daniel Moore. Enrique Rubio. Daniel Brillhart.
"They were good men, and now they're just going to be forgotten," said Fredericks. "There will be no obituaries for them. They're just gone."
Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004. Follow him at Twitter.com/brucenewmantwit.
Daniel Moore's family is trying to raise enough money to claim his body. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/57w88w.
to honor the dead
A memorial service to honor the homeless who died in the past year will be held Thursday, 11 a.m., at EHC LIfeBuilders's Boccardo Reception Center, 2011 Little Orchard Street, San Jose.