The West Palm Beach Police Department is asking witnesses to come forward following a fatal three-vehicle accident in the 2500 block of Okeechobee Blvd. Jan. 15 around noon.
Joe Ranieri, founder of The Lord’s Place died in a crash. Meanwhile, friends and advocates against homelessness say the 79-year-old didn’t just build an organization, he built the passion and mission behind it that continues.
“Naming saints and guardian angels is above my paygrade – but he’s certainly worthy of the recognition for the many wonderful things that he did and the many people that he served,” said Ted Deckert, The Lord’s Place board member and friend. “He was driven by his loss of a brother to homelessness in New York.”
Deckert says after the death of his brother, Ranieri founded The Lord’s Place in 1979, originally a soup kitchen to help people transition out of homelessness. And raising money and drawing attention to the issue in public places like the steps of St. Ann’s Church in downtown West Palm Beach and city dumpsters.
In 1983, Deckert was a lawyer on his way to work when he stopped and befriended Ranieri on the steps of St. Ann’s. He also recalls the ‘dumpster days’ and annual Sleep Outs to support what has expanded into a nine-campus social impact agency offering 25 programs.
“Without him starting this – this place wouldn’t be here,” said Gerald Fremont, The Lord’s Place culinary student. “The sky is the limit.”
“All I know is he died in a car accident – I don’t know the details. It’s a loss. It’s a tremendous loss,” added Deckert.
Board members say street engagement, Sleep Outs and the campaign against homelessness will continue for years to come. This year’s Sleep Out on April 3 is dedicated to the life of Joe Ranieri. To learn more, click here.
“Do something. give anything – whatever you can,” said Deckert. “Give your time, talent or treasure. The Lord’s Place offers an opportunity for people to support or help the program in any way they are able to.”
Investigators are asking witnesses of the Jan. 15 crash to call the West Palm Beach Police Department’s Traffic Section at (561) 822-1900.