In Memoriam: Scott “Sixx” Eicke

Brynn Fitzsimmons

1/23/2021- Kansas City, Missouri

Sixx (right, in green shirt) and Debo with Free Hot Soup volunteer Kendra Lawrence (left, in blue scrubs) while getting veterinary care for Debo at Northland Animal Welfare Society (NAWS) in June 2019.

Photo by Kendra Lawrence, used with permission.

“He was just a guy with a dog trying to live his best life,” is how one friend, Kendra Lawrence, described Scott “Sixx” Eicke, who died from exposure on January 1, 2021. His body was found in the snow during New Year’s Day’s snowstorm, just hours after protesters gathered outside Mayor Quinton Lucas’ house demanding a stop to sweeps of houseless camps—like the ones where Sixx lived—especially during the coldest weeks of the year.

Although the city has downplayed recent sweeps and said that they do not take belongings from houseless individuals, houseless advocacy groups like Kansas City Homeless United have pushed back, citing continued sweeps and issuing demands from houseless individuals for better response and service from the city. Other activists, led by Creative Innovative Entrepreneurs, started the Scott Eicke Warming Center, which is providing overnight shelter, meals, and other services to houseless individuals at 1124 E. 5th Street, KCMO 64106. Currently, the center is open 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on any day that is below 32 degrees.

Sixx’s ex-wife, Michelle Eicke, said she hopes that sharing Sixx’s story will help Kansas City better understand and be able to help people experiencing houselessness. And, she said she hopes the city will “cut through the red tape” that prevents people like Sixx from getting services.

“This is a needless death. Nobody deserves to die by freezing to death,” she said.

Michelle explained that while Sixx would have been glad for warming centers and better resources for those experiencing houselessness, he himself was a quiet, reserved animal lover who never wanted to stand out but always found ways to show love to those he cared about.

His stepson, Carlos Glasgow, agreed, and said he remembers Sixx’s “unwavering spirit.”

“He was really just there for us,” Glasgow said.

Glasgow is holding a fundraiser stream via Twitch on January 31, 2021, from 12 p.m. to midnight. He and his friend will be streaming a full playthrough of Borderlands. The fundraiser will benefit Kansas City Heroes, which offers a variety of services to individuals in Kansas City, including those experiencing houselessness. He said he and Sixx used to play video games together often—especially the Call of Duty and God of War games—and he feels like doing a stream is something Sixx would appreciate.

Lawrence, a volunteer with Free Hot Soup KC, is also working on a fundraiser to honor one of Sixx’s passions: animals. She is raising funds in collaboration with NAWS and Angel Hearts to provide veterinary care and other resources for the pets of houseless individuals.

“He had a lot of love to give,” she said of Sixx. “He was really quiet, but when it really counted, he really did care.”

Seth Thompson, a family friend, agreed. “If you needed anything, he would be the first person to give it to you,” he said of Sixx. “I want everybody to know he had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen.”

Sixx and Debo help Free Hot Soup volunteers transport and hand out supplies at houseless camps after getting veterinary care for Debo at NAWS in June 2019.

Photo by Kendra Lawrence, used with permission.

Animal Lover

While Sixx often came off quiet and reserved in conversations, his relationship with animals was quite the opposite. “He would do anything to try to avoid conversations—except that dog,” Michelle said.

“That dog” referred to Debo, a pit bull Sixx had found and adopted. Once, when Sixx was arrested while walking with his bicycle because he “matched the description of somebody who stole a bicycle,” as Lawrence explained it, the police took Sixx and left Debo on the sidewalk. Lawrence said Debo paced the spot, waiting for Sixx to come back, until Free Hot Soup volunteers found her and picked her up. After police released Sixx, calling the incident a “misunderstanding,” according to Lawrence, Sixx and Debo were reunited.

Lawrence said Debo was in some ways the start of her friendship with Sixx. She said when she and other Free Hot Soup volunteers came to serve meals, Sixx and Debo would both come, and Sixx would always share his meals with the pit bull.

“He was really quiet, and he would take specifically what he wanted, and go and sit and eat by himself with his dog… I would see him, you know, feeding his dog off his own plate,” she said.

Lawrence, who herself works in the veterinary field and said she often comes across people who mistreat animals, said she was struck by Sixx’s kindness and attention to Debo. She began offering dog food and, eventually, other supplies. She was also able to work with NAWS to get veterinary care for Debo. When they went to take Debo to the vet, however, Lawrence said Sixx insisted on going with. She said she and another Free Hot Soup volunteer ended up driving around all day with Sixx and another houseless friend of theirs, Felix, passing out supplies and singing in the car at the top of their lungs.

Eventually, Sixx started asking Lawrence for supplies for other animals, including a dog named Princess. Lawrence said she assumed Princess was another dog in one of the houseless camps—only to find out, later, that Sixx was taking supplies to Michelle’s home for the dog he had rescued years prior.

“Whenever stuff got rough, he would always make sure my family was fed and the dogs were fed,” Glasgow explained.

Thompson said Sixx had a particular love for pit bulls. “He absolutely loved animals, especially pit bulls, because he felt like they were misunderstood,” he said. “He understood that all they wanted to do was be loved.”

According to Glasgow, it wasn’t even just dogs; Sixx loved all kinds of animals. Glasgow recalled one Fourth of July when he and his family were stopped at a traffic light and saw a kitten walking across the street. Michelle had Sixx go get the kitten, and they brought it home.

“He’s allergic to cats, and he didn’t really like cats at all,” Glasgow explained. “(But) once I started nursing the kitten back to health, I would just see them sleeping together and stuff, and him just being sweet on the cat that he supposedly hated.”

“He still tried to pretend he didn’t like cats,” Glasgow added.

Glasgow said he and his sister would often find stray animals and bring them home, knowing that Sixx would always agree to let them stay. Michelle said the oldest dog she currently has, Princess, is another of Sixx’s rescues.

“(She) was caged in someone’s basement,” Michelle said. “She wasn’t potty trained or anything like that, and he took the time not only to do that but to teach the kids how to do it, and that—that was Scott.”

“He Was a Fighter His Whole Life.”

Michelle said Sixx first experienced houselessness in his teen years, in Omaha, Nebraska, where he had grown up. “He had to learn to survive, and that was…his mistrust of people pretty much started at that point,” she said. “He was not a very trusting person. That was kind of his safeguard, was just to not trust anybody. He trusted animals. He would trust his dog. But he would never trust people.”

Michelle explained Sixx was adopted into his stepfather’s family at an early age and struggled with the dynamics of being Black in a predominantly white family. Michelle said Sixx quickly tired of questions about why he was in a predominantly white space, why he had a German last name, or “how tall are you?” Eventually, he found ways to avoid some of those questions, going by “Sixx”—a reference to his height—instead of his stepfather’s last name.

“(He would always say) don’t hurt yourself; just call me Sixx,” Michelle explained. “It was just easier, because he didn’t like to have, (as) he would call them, stupid conversations about his height.”

She said he learned early in his life not to trust people and to try to avoid conversations, questions, and the discrimination and racism that often came with them.

From early childhood to experiencing houselessness as a teenager to struggles moving between Omaha and Kansas City, Michelle said Sixx was always fighting to survive—and that he helped her survive houselessness, too.

“He went through strides to make sure that (what happened to him as a child) never, ever happened to another child,” she said.

“He was on his way to trying to make himself better, but after 41 years of pure torture, it was hard,” she said. “He was a fighter his whole life. He fought for everything.”

Coming to Kansas City

It was Sixx who brought the family to Kansas City, Michelle explained. At the time, she was struggling with a drug addiction, and he wanted to get her out of that environment. She said he helped her get her children out of the foster care system as she and Sixx were getting on their feet. Eventually, he stayed at home with them while she worked.

“He was my stepdad, but he was living with us for so long that he was our dad,” Glasgow explained. “It was just normal, which is what I’d been wanting since me and my sister were in foster care for so long.”

Michelle said that Sixx always pushed education, and tried to be involved in whatever way he could. School had been difficult for Sixx, even though Michelle said he was always good at numbers. However, by the time he was recruited by a college to play basketball, she said he still could barely read. Once he injured his knee and could no longer play, she said he dropped out and never went back to school.

“He was one of the children that got left behind,” she said. “For most of his adult life, you know, he was scared of taking his GED, but he was a brilliant man.”

“He really was interested in teaching me a lot about just, life, and sort of the kind of man that I was supposed to be, even though he kind of lacked in some of those areas, and I felt like those were really genuine actions,” Glasgow said.

Thompson said Sixx’s kindness changed his life. He met Sixx and Michelle shortly after moving to Kansas City from Texas. He was houseless in the middle of December, and he said he found few avenues for assistance in Kansas City.

“I was hungry, and I was struggling real bad, and Carlos picked me up and called Sixx and Michelle, and he asked them if I could move in with them,” he explained. “(Sixx) just immediately made me feel comfortable...I felt like I finally had a family.”

Thompson said he remembers arriving at Sixx and Michelle’s house and Sixx asking what size clothes and shoes he wore. He said he and Sixx were a similar size, and Sixx went to his room and got clothes and shoes for him.

“He basically legitimately gave me the clothes off his back...he sat there and consoled me while I was crying,” he said. “It was definitely one of those life-changing moments.”

He said he and Sixx would spend hours talking about their pasts, having shared similar backgrounds and struggles, including becoming houseless around the same age.

“He just told me I wasn’t alone,” Thompson said. “He didn’t judge me for anything.”

Sixx’s care for those around him extended to his neighbors in the houseless camps, too. Lawrence recalled several times where Sixx would ask her and the other Free Hot Soup volunteers to check on a woman in the camp who has schizophrenia, especially if she was having a difficult day and wouldn’t come to get supplies on her own.

“He always watched out for her, because she was kind of easy for somebody to take advantage of, or to not ask for things because she was scared,” Lawrence explained. “And so you have to interact with her differently and be more quiet and kind of ground her to understand what's going on. And so he always watched out for her.”

“Even though it seems as though he has a rough experience, once you get to know him, you sort of understand that he acts in a way that protects the ones he loved,” Glasgow said of his stepdad. “And even when he has all those issues plaguing him, even when he messes up, when he wants to do something or wants to be there for someone, he will—period.”

Barriers to Housing

Unfortunately, Sixx’s love of animals also meant he had difficulties finding shelter at times. Most shelters in Kansas City don’t allow pets, Lawrence explained. At one point, she said Sixx camped outside a shelter in Kansas City because he wouldn’t leave Debo alone. He would go inside to get warm or to eat, but stayed outside.

Nor are pets the only barrier to finding shelter. Lawrence said anything from too many misdemeanors—including those from, for example, stealing food when there are no other options—to lack of comprehensive supports for transitioning from houselessness to housing to shelters’ constrictive rules often lead to people not being able to find shelter of any kind, and certainly not long term.

Michelle also noted the challenges that many shelters and other service providers pose when they demand that everyone deal with trying to get housing in the same way.

“What kind of rules are you going to have to follow that I'm not going to be comfortable with? Because right now, I'm kind of in my own shell and my own little world where I'm the boss. Now, you want me to live under some kind of control, (and) I'm not sure how I feel like that because I've been out of control before, and I've been in control, and in control feels better. I mean, I can only imagine that's what he was thinking,” she said.

But perhaps one of the most substantial difficulties Sixx and other houseless individuals faced were camp sweeps. Michelle explained that being houseless already placed massive emotional and mental demands on someone, with a constant worry about where to sleep, where to shower, how to get food and other supplies, how to charge a phone to be able to stay connected with loved ones, and other concerns. Sweeps, however, could remove any sense of stability in an instant.

“He just said that (if) he went to sleep or (go) do something, if he left anything behind, it was gone,” Michelle said.

Although city officials and employees have insisted the city does not take houseless individuals’ possessions and that they offer shelter and other services when sweeping camps, Lawrence said the reports she hears from other houseless individuals are different.

“What they’d do is they’d just, like, bulldoze it. Like literally, everything's gone,” she said. “You would have never guessed that anybody was living there. And they just completely bulldoze everything…all their supplies, it’s just like a little wall in the ground.”

Lawrence said she doesn’t refer to these events as sweeps; she calls them raids.

“And then you have the police officers who are standing there, then they watch the city do their whole thing,” she said. “So that's why I call them raids: because if you were in your home, and the police are standing there and letting the city go through and take all your belongings, what would that feel like?”

Glasgow said he remembers reading about his father’s death, including the response from the city which noted that camping is not allowed in parks.

“I don’t understand, because I’m like, even if it wasn’t homeless camps, why are you trying to push these people out of something that isn’t even a complete shelter when people don’t even go to city parks 1) in the middle of a pandemic and 2) in the middle of fucking winter?” he said.

“I didn’t know how to interpret it any other way than the city just 100% not caring,” he said. “It felt like my dad’s identity was being erased.”

Michelle said one of the last messages she received from Sixx read, “I feel like the city is trying to kill us. They’re not doing a whole lot for homeless people.”

Sixx feeds his dog, Debo. Lawrence recalled that Debo never wanted to wear the safety vest Sixx tried to keep on her so that she would be visible at night.

Photo by Kendra Lawrence, used with permission.

Permanent Solutions

Thompson said that while Sixx’s death came as a shock, he also sees what happened as connected to longstanding problems in Kansas City.

“He made it sound like everything was okay...He didn’t really talk about his problems to other people. I feel like he didn’t want to bother them or hurt anybody’s feelings,” he said, explaining his last conversation with Sixx, about a week and a half before Sixx died. “(But) this isn’t a new problem in Kansas City. This isn’t something that happened overnight. I don’t feel like the city is doing enough.”

Glasgow agreed. “Scott was loved, so even though he was homeless at the time, he wasn’t going to stay that way,” he said. “(But) I’m thinking about other people that probably don’t have stuff that was already being put in motion (for Scott).”

Glasgow said that while he appreciates the work of activists, it’s the city he holds responsible for the lack of resources for the unhoused in Kansas City.

“I haven’t seen anything good from the city that the city actually put their name on,” he said. “Why do activists have to put something together on their own? The only reason activists are a thing is people in power showing that they don’t care, so instead of leaving it to the activists to do something, take the reins.”

“The same people that think paying for hotels is solving the problem are the same kinds of people that don’t think homeless people should be able to camp in parks at least in the middle of the winter,” he said. “Those kinds of solutions appeal to people that just don’t want to look at these human beings.”

The solutions for situations like Scott’s, Glasgow said, aren’t in city hall—but city hall needs to listen.

“If you’ve never been homeless and struggling, then you are 100 percent not qualified to manage homeless or struggling people,” he said. “Instead of having a conversation with people who can afford to take showers and live in a home…ask the people who actually need the help what they want. That’s the easiest way to both show that you care and get the job done.”

Published on: 1/23/2021