A heavy rain was falling at 4 a.m. on March 30. Even with streetlights roughly every hundred feet on W. Stadium, the driver of the red SUV didn’t see the man with the bike until it was too late.
The driver pulled over and called 911. When officers reached the scene minutes later, his SUV was parked in the far-right southbound lane. They noted a damaged headlight on the driver’s side and a single shoe next to the sidewalk. The man he’d hit lay nearby with his head facing north.
“I made contact with the victim,” one officer wrote in his report, “and noted he was trying to lift himself up off the ground with his arms but his legs were not moving. As I got closer to the victim I noted abrasions to his face and bleeding coming from his left lower leg. I attempted to ask the victim his name but he only repeated ‘help me, help me.’”
While trying to help him, the cops checked for identification but found nothing. Then Huron Valley Ambulance paramedics arrived and took over. Transported to the U-M Hospital, he died during emergency surgery.
At the scene, the officers tried to reconstruct the accident. According to their reports, the driver said he’d been returning from work. He saw someone on a bike crossing Stadium from east to west and tried to brake, but couldn’t stop in time: “I hit him and he went over my vehicle,” he said, landing on the hood before sliding off.
Although a crosswalk with flashing yellow lights was nearby, the driver said the man wasn’t in it. A review later confirmed that the lights hadn’t been activated.
The officers wrote that the debris pattern matched the driver’s account. He didn’t appear to be distracted and said he was traveling at the speed limit.
In addition to the darkness and rain, the victim was covered head to toe in dark clothing. One officer’s report concluded that he “appears to have been the foremost cause of the accident.”
Coincidentally, the head of Washtenaw County’s homeless outreach team was on W. Stadium later that same morning. “There was a ton of lights, and I could see that there was a car being towed,” Christie Blais recalls. “And I thought to myself: ‘That’s where Raymond usually is. I hope that everything’s okay.’”
The Delonis Center downtown provides homeless people with a roof and a bed, then works to place them in permanent housing. But not everyone who’s homeless is able or willing to go there. Blais’ team, part of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, tries to find those people and engage them with services.
Two years earlier, Blais says, another member of the homeless services community reported seeing “a gentleman basically up and down Stadium over an extended period of time.” The team missed him on their first search, but months later, she says, “We encountered Raymond on our own and tried to make contact.”
At first, “he would not give us his name,” Blais recalls. “He gave me really, really short answers, and his body language just said he was really uncomfortable.
“When we’re engaging with someone new, our goal is to meet them where they are. We’re not going to try [to] force our services upon someone. So we backed off.”
When Blais asked a waitress at Holiday’s restaurant if “she knew anything about the gentleman that stayed at the bus stop” across the street, the woman replied, ‘Oh, that’s who we call Stadium Steve.’”
Holiday’s owner, Rob TerBush, says Stadium Steve was already known on the street when he arrived in 1996.
“We have the bus stop right across the street, and so he’d be at the bus stop quite a bit,” TerBush explains. “And we had different patrons who would buy a meal and take it over there or ask us if they bought a meal if we’d take it over there. And on occasion, if it’d be cold out, [we] would run him some food over. He’d never come over asking for food.”
“Nobody ever thought of him as a threat,” TerBush continues. “He never, never asked for anything, never was panhandling the parking lot, or never was wandering around the dumpster. Never asking anything or was a nuisance.
“He was very kept to himself. He’d say, ‘Ooh, thank you.’ Or one time I remember him saying, ‘Ooh, what is this?’”
Despite seeing him for decades, TerBush’s description of Stadium Steve is blurry. “He seemed like he was probably in his late forties in ’96. So I’m guessing he [was in his] late sixties to early seventies, but that is all a guess. A little shorter in stature. The biggest thing that always stuck out is he typically had on a lot of clothing.”
The outreach team engaged with him again this past winter. “When the cold weather hits, we want to make sure that people are being taken care of,” Blais says. “We do more regular checks.
“We offered to get him a meal, which he turned down. And I asked him if we could at least get him a coffee, and he agreed. So we ran and got him a coffee. When I brought it back, I asked him if we could have his name, and he said it was Raymond.
“That’s the most information we ever got out of him,” Blais recalls wistfully.
“From that point on, we brought him more coffees and tried a little bit more to interact with him, and he would accept the coffee but wouldn’t really answer our questions.”
Like TerBush’s, Blais’ description is blurry. “He was always wearing the same kind of puffy jacket, dark-colored, his hood pulled up,” she says. “I didn’t see much else other than the small part of his face that was poking out.
“He was always sitting down, so I can’t get a good sense of his height, although I would have to guess that he wasn’t particularly tall.” As to his age, “my guess would be that he was in his sixties or seventies. It’s really hard to tell when someone lived a life outside. You age so much faster, just being exposed to the elements.”
When the accident happened, TerBush says, “everyone was asking if anybody had seen Stadium Steve, or if they thought that was him.”
When Blais came into Holiday’s a few days after the accident, a waitress asked, “Did you hear about Stadium Steve?”
When she realized the man she knew as Ray was dead, Blais says she felt “incredibly, incredibly disappointed—really sad. We had long-term goals with that relationship to hopefully bring about some change in Raymond’s life.
“Raymond gets to choose how he wants to live his life,” Blais continues. “But potentially, if we had a little bit more time, we could have been in a different stage of the timeline.”
She was a bit surprised to hear that the driver thought he was riding his bike at the time of the accident. “I’ve seen him walking the bike before, but never riding it,” she says. “More often than not I saw him seated, and when he was walking it was pretty slow. I assumed he was not super mobile.”
Raymond carried his possessions in small bags, and “the first time that we saw him, he had his legs covered with a sheet of plastic, maybe a garbage bag,” Blais says. “We’d offer to get him a blanket and a sleeping bag and some other things. And he said no.”
He slept outside the Dairy Queen and in the lobby at the post office, as well as under the bus shelter across from Holiday’s. “He met the definition of literal homelessness,” says Blais: he was “staying in a place not meant for human habitation.
“I don’t think Raymond’s situation is necessarily particularly unique,” she says. “But I do think that Raymond’s unique personhood is what kind of prevented him from maybe accepting help.
“A lot of folks in his situation might accept our help to get inside and get stable housing. But he wasn’t in a position where he felt like he could accept that.”
John Stacy, clinical supervisor of Blais’ team, first encountered Stadium Steve about a year before she did. “I had a call from someone who was concerned about an individual they had had been seeing in the post office.
Stacy went to the post office, and “immediately noticed the gentleman that the person had to have been talking about.
“He was a gentleman who looked like he was in his sixties,” Stacy continues, “sitting in a section of the PO box area quietly and engaging in no diversion other than his own personal presence. He had a very large thick black coat on with a hood.
“I did speak with him and got his name as Raymond. He wouldn’t give me a last name. I asked him if he was homeless. He said no. I did not believe that, but I said, ‘Nonetheless here’s a card. Should that change, or if you ever need any help, here’s my number.’
“I did subsequently return the next day, and he wasn’t there. So I assumed I spooked him a little bit.”
Stacy has no idea where he came from, or if he had family and friends. “I tried to dig in our health records, just trying to see if I could figure it out. But we didn’t have full information. I didn’t have his last name.”
He says it’s not uncommon for people the team contacts to refuse all help beyond a cup of coffee. “A reasonable clinician would say that they have a significant mental illness.
“Homelessness brings its own trauma,” Stacy adds. “Once you find yourself homeless, you’re then exposed to a number of adverse events that over time can activate or generate a number of mental health complications.”
The police investigation confirmed that Stadium Steve’s true first name was Raymond, and added a last name: Rebone.
That didn’t help them much. “There are very few records,” Blais says, “even under his legal name.
“When we were getting those coffees, our long-term plan was to maybe turn it into, ‘Okay, well, this time, do you wanna sit down with us for a meal?’ or ‘Do you want to tell us a little bit about what we could help you with? And we can show you little baby steps on how to get there.’”
The outreach team “all respected Raymond for his autonomy and the choices that he was making for himself,” she says. But they “also wanted to see if we could help him want to make some changes.”
It was not to be: Raymond Rebone, formerly known as Stadium Steve, crossed Stadium Blvd. for the last time on a rainy night in early spring.
Like Blais, Stacy wishes that the outreach team had been able to bring him to a safer place.
“If the tragedy of Raymond’s death hadn’t have happened, I imagine we would eventually, either because of our doing or because of Raymond’s own change of heart or mind, we would’ve had some success with him,” he says.
And though he could never bring himself to accept help, Stacy says his story does have a moral.
“If your readers are looking for something that they can take away from this,” he says, “it’s that if they see someone they think might be experiencing homelessness, they can connect them to us.”
To reach the homeless outreach team, call Washtenaw County Community Mental Health Access at (734) 544–3050 and ask to be connected to the PATH team. If no one is available, leave a voicemail with as many details as you have and a callback number.