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Community remembers Cedar Rapids homeless advocate Anthony 'Tony' Goodwin

Goodwin died this month of unknown causes

Anthony “Tony” Goodwin asks questions about access to beds during a news conference announcing the 2015 winter homeless sheltering plan in Cedar Rapids. Though Goodwin battled demons, including alcohol and mental illness, he was an advocate for the homeless in the six years he lived in the city. His death on May 6 “will affect a lot of people,” one of his friends said. (The Gazette)
Anthony “Tony” Goodwin asks questions about access to beds during a news conference announcing the 2015 winter homeless sheltering plan in Cedar Rapids. Though Goodwin battled demons, including alcohol and mental illness, he was an advocate for the homeless in the six years he lived in the city. His death on May 6 “will affect a lot of people,” one of his friends said. (The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man who advocated for those struggling with homelessness while battling his own demons is being remembered for his generosity and as an “extreme caretaker” after he died of unknown causes earlier this month.

“He was about the most loving, giving person of his time and anything he had,” Kathy Edwards, 57, said of her friend Anthony “Tony” Goodwin, 45, who died May 6. “He was a big advocate for the homeless community because he himself had been homeless multiple times.”

Goodwin looked out for others despite his own substance and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, including depression, and homelessness, friends and relatives said.

Around 70 people released balloons in his honor during a memorial at Greene Square last weekend, and City Council member Ashley Vanorny paid tribute to Goodwin at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, recalling his past visits to the council.

She described him as a “passionate advocate” and urged his death be a reminder to “continue to do our earnest best to continue to work on mental health advocacy as well as solving this chronic homelessness problem.”

Goodwin’s sister Barbara Berg, of Yuma, Ariz., said he had been in his living space — a room, which he moved into several months ago — with two friends when he died. He’d been fine the night before, having something to eat before going to sleep, when one of the friends woke to discover Goodwin wasn’t moving, Berg said.

They are awaiting autopsy results, she said.

“We were not ready for this,” said Berg, noting the two had remained close.

With his personal experiences and an articulate voice, Goodwin championed the needs of the area’s homeless to city leaders.

In the fall of 2015, Goodwin met with then Mayor Ron Corbett after the city shut down a makeshift homeless camp along the east side of the Cedar River to press for answers about where they were supposed to go.

As winter approached last year, he challenged City Council members to act when the status of a winter overflow shelter was in flux and urged the creation of a permanent year-round emergency shelter as a safety net and a foundation for people without homes to find work.

“He was one of the most caring young men I ever met,” Berg said. “He would help anyone. He didn’t care if they were a stranger or he’d known them for a long time.”

He was also a regular at Green Square Meals where he served free meals to those in need and washed dishes.

“Tony was doing everything he could to help people out,” said Annie Varvaris, 50, of Cedar Rapids, who volunteers at Green Square Meals. “For people on the street here, Tony was a guy who stuck up for a lot of people.”

By blood, Goodwin was Berg’s cousin. He was living in Washington State and adopted into their family in Sacramento, Calif., Berg said. Goodwin dropped out of school in eighth grade when his relationship with drugs began, she said.

About six years ago, he was living in Junction City, Kan., and followed friends, including Edwards’ son, to Cedar Rapids, where he has been ever since.

Berg described Goodwin as a methamphetamine and cocaine addict who kicked those habits 13 years ago but was never able to overcome alcoholism, which was at the root of his battle with homelessness, she said.

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Edwards said Goodwin had spoken of “giving up drinking and being sober” in recent weeks, but he battled mental health issues and would still go on alcohol binges once a week or so. He used counseling services, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but it was sporadic, she said.

“He has had a really super rough life his whole life,” Edwards said. “It’s a pity he is gone. It will affect a lot of people.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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