NEVADA CITY, Calif. — Members of Nevada County’s homeless community and its supporters are mourning the loss of advocate Thomas Streicher, who died in a weekend wreck in Wyoming on his way back to feed Nevada City’s needy after a trip to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he visited quarterly to provide food and other donated items.
“It’s very shocking,” said Cheryl Zellers, a former board member of Divine Spark, Streicher’s charitable nonprofit. “I’m still in the mode where I don’t believe it.”
Returning from his 42nd charitable trip to the reservation, Streicher, 58, died Friday evening after losing control of his vehicle along an icy stretch of Interstate 80, 45 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyo., according to Sgt. Stephen Townsend of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Responding paramedics pronounced Streicher dead en route to medical facilities on a night fraught with winter weather, Townsend said. Streicher, who was reportedly not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from his vehicle when it crossed the median and rolled. No other vehicles or individuals were involved in the wreck.
As the leader of Divine Spark, Streicher was an uncompromising advocate for the homeless, feeding hundreds of Nevada County’s in-need individuals.
“His focus is helping people. That seemed to be his life. I don’t know of any other activities he did beside helping others,” said Quique Barletta, a Divine Spark volunteer. “It just seemed to take up all of his life. I admired him for that.”
Although Divine Spark was initially founded to provide resources to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, it later expanded to feed western Nevada County’s homeless people every Sunday at the Madelyn Helling Library.
The organization also had plans to expand to Truckee to feed the community’s homeless once a week for half the year, although the idea was eventually shot down earlier this year by the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District Board of Directors.
“The homeless people respect him,” Barletta said. “They speak so highly of him and are so grateful for what he does.”
Over the years, the program moved around and grew to a five-day feeding center.
It was not uncommon to find Streicher at odds with elected officials. During many of the Nevada City Council meetings in 2012, Streicher would greet attendees in front of city hall with picket signs and a few fellow protestors before attending those meetings, where he would deliver impassioned speeches.
“When the burden was the greatest for him is when he would puff up the biggest,” said Stephanie Cohelan, a former board member of Divine Spark.
Today, Divine Spark continues to feed between 30 and 60 homeless people at a cost of about $3,000 per month through a food voucher system and recently expanded those services to Truckee.
“At this point, we are going to continue that,” Zellers said of voucher system.
Streicher’s absence was felt in Nevada City on Sunday, when voucher recipients were unable to be provided their food tickets at the same time they were told of the death.
“People don’t understand yet just how big of vacuum he has left, how big a hole he has left behind,” Cohelan said.
In addition to his feeding programs, Streicher also hosted large holiday festivities where food, music and other activities were offered around Christmas.
Streicher was a nationally recognized author, his most recent book “Extra Planetary Experiences” delved in to human contact with aliens and the expansion of consciousness. The book garnered Streicher on Coast to Coast, an national radio talk show about the occult, phenomena and conspiracies that reaches 3 million listeners, making it the most listened to overnight radio program in North America.
Streicher was born in January 1955 in Milwaukee. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps on active duty starting in 1973, according to his website. He garnered four meritorious promotions up to the rank of sergeant by the time of his honorable discharge in 1975.
Streicher was also an environmental activist, a supporter of addiction recovery, a father of three adult daughters and an avid traveler to Europe, especially Austria, where he lived one month each year, according to Streicher’s website.