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Cash-strapped police hire homeless man to watch over cemetery

June 26, 2012 |  7:03 am

  In exchange for a roof over his head, a cash-strapped police department in Northern California has recruited a homeless man to be the caretaker at a vandalism-prone cemetery.

The city of Marysville, about 45 miles north of Sacramento, has sustained $28,000 in damage over the last year at its historic cemetery. Now, Donald "Shortstack" Oliver will live in a city-leased trailer on the property and try to deter any future vandalism.

"I never thought in my lifetime I'd be overseeing a graveyard, but hey, the good Lord has his ways," said Oliver, 58.

He said he has been homeless for three years but has spent much of that time trying to aid fellow homeless people and Marysville police. He is now to entrusted oversee gravestones that date to 1850.

"You should respect the people who are buried here. Each life, every headstone has a story. It represents a life that's been lived and you should respect that," said Oliver.

Roberta Shurtz and volunteers from the Marysville Cemetery Commission are restoring old grave sites.  She hopes that Oliver's presence will deter the vandalism problem that has plagued the cemetery for years. Shurtz said the last time there was an on-site caretaker was about 20 years ago.

"We're hoping it will prevent future vandalism," said Shurtz.

Oliver has already cleared away years of brush in his first week on the job. He'll keep a watch out for vandals at the cemetery, which is next to a high school and popular bike trail, and call police if he sees anything suspicious.

"It's like a step up for me because I've been homeless.  I got something to do now that's worthwhile," said Oliver.

Police say they hope his mere presence will deter people from illegally entering the property after hours.


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Cash-strapped police hire homeless man to watch over cemetery

-- Lonnie Wong, Fox 40 Sacramento