Kenni Thomas Nickel, 56, was found unresponsive behind a drug store in Los Angeles late last month. Paramedics were called but by the time they got there he was already gone, and they pronounced him dead at the scene.
Craig Harvey, the Los Angeles County chief of coroner’s investigations said that he died of natural causes stemming from chronic alcoholism.
Do you recognize Nickel’s name? Last December a video featuring Nickel went viral on Youtube. It garnered over 38 million views and opened up a new dialogue about homelessness. Josh Paler Lin is the creator of the video and while he usually posts prank videos on his channel, this one had a more serious tone to it.
The video was called ‘How Does a Homeless Man Spend $100’ and showed Josh hand Nickel one hundred dollars. Lin and his camera man then followed him to see where and how he would spend the money. They followed Nickel all the way to a liquor store, but before they could feel disappointed…they saw Nickel leave the store with a full bag and bring it to a park of other homeless people. He went around the park and handed out food. I know, beautiful!
Following the video, Lin became good friends with Nickel. They made a few follow up posts showing them hanging out, getting makeovers, eating at restaurants, reuniting with family etc. Lin also started a crowd funding campaign that raised over $145, 000. The money, Lin reported, was transferred to Nickel on March 11, just months before he passed. He said that he hopes that money can now help Nickel’s family.
Nickels brother, Kevin, had a different reaction to the Lin’s Youtube videos. In a phone interview he said that he was unsure about whether or not the money was received and said that instead of the fun videos they made, they should have instead made videos showing Nickel getting treatment for his alcoholism. He told reporters that Nickel had been soon to inherit money from his parents death and wasn’t in need of the help financially. Instead Nickel would have benefited from rehab and perhaps some psychiatric help. Nickel had been arrested over 20 times for misdemeanors – almost all of them stemming from his drinking problem. Perhaps his brother had a point that long term help would have been more beneficial for Kenni.
“They should have been showing him going in the hospital and getting help, not having lobster dinners and haircuts and suits” – Kevin Nickel.
There was also skepticism circulating over whether or not the video was authentic. A witness told CBS that the entire video was staged, but at this time that’s a moot point. Regardless of what Lin should have done with the video…and regardless of the video being fake or not, the video, and Nickel himself, did help a lot of people. Before he passed he said:
“I want to be able to care for people I don’t know and people in need.”
With Lin’s help he was able to inspire people to rethink what they assume about the homeless population. They were able to donate to shelters and inspire others to do the same. Maybe his death will even motivate those with drinking problems to seek help!
R.I.P Kenni Thomas Nickel and condolences to the rest of the Nickel family. Hoping you find solace in knowing he has touched many people in a positive way despite his personal issues.
JoshPalerLin “How Does A Homeless Man Spend $100?” Youtube. 22 Dec 2014. Web. 29 June 2015.