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Who Was Homeless Man Who Died in Downtown Los Gatos?

Christopher Blatnick had grown up in town and had attended local schools, but alcoholism got the best of him, friend says.

The death of a homeless man in downtown Los Gatos the morning of Oct. 24 left many in town shocked about what had happened to regular transient Christopher Blatnick.

But they also wondered who he was, where he came from and why he had ended up on the streets.

Police found the body in a public bathroom on North Santa Cruz Avenue with no sign of trauma, no evidence of foul play.

A friend of Blatnick's, who identified himself as Thomas Kouns, said the 50-year-old man had grown up in Los Gatos and had attended St. Mary's School and Los Gatos High School.

He also said Blatnick had started working very young in the restaurant industry as a bus boy and then a chef around the country.

One of his first jobs was at C.B. Hannegan's, Kouns said. He also was in the Armed Forces, but he wasn't sure which branch.

At the time of his death, Blatnick had been trying to get his military benefits. His wife Martha, who was also homeless, had died several years ago and the loss had a profound effect on his outlook and world view, Kouns added.

Blatnick also battled his demons, one of them substance abuse, Kouns said, who met him through St. Luke's Episcopal Church's outreach program for the homeless.

"Like most of us, he was not a perfect person," he said. "But I can say this ... Chris was bright, funny and when not affected by alcohol, a kind human being."

Kouns said he met Blatnick after moving back to the area from New York and went to St. Luke's. After that, he would see him around town occasionally and would speak with him whenever he could.

"You wonder how the homeless get in these situations," Kouns said. "What precipitates that ... I can't say I knew him intimately or fairly well, but I always asked him questions.

"He clearly struggled with substance abuse issues, but he was articulate ... He was on a path that he could not get out of."

Like many in Los Gatos who help and befriend the homeless, Kouns said he wasn't shocked that Blatnick had died, but he was saddened by the death.

As others, Kouns would see the blond, scraggly-bearded thin man around town buying small bottles of vodka from local liquor stores with money he had received from kind-hearted residents. "He would drink them continuously ... when his wife passed away he had a very hard time recovering from that ... he couldn't get out of that cycle."

Blatnick was also in survival mode, he added, battling - like many homeless - difficult childhoods and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and alcoholism. "You could tell, the last few times that I had seen him, that he was probably not long for this world," he said.

A homeless friend who goes by the name of Cory remarked to Kouns that he also knew Blatnick was going downhill. "He was aware of what was going on. He knew he was going downhill and from afar it seemed he didn't care."

Jill Birmingham November 17, 2012 at 10:12 AM
I completely agree. I don't think it's right to document his life story by his demise. Imagine if his extended family googles him... awful. Homelessness is a struggle for many families, including my own. I think it's horrible when people blame the families, when more than likely they try more than the person themselves. Therein lies the issue.
Gwen Thomas January 16, 2013 at 12:45 AM
I went to school with Chris. I haven't seen him for many years. But I remember him well. He was a friend. Towards the end of High School, Chris got into drugs. It appears that he struggled with the disease of addiction from then on. From time to time I have wondered what became of him and other friends with similar problems. I am deeply saddened to hear that his life ended in a public restroom. I knew Chris when he was smart and nice. Back then, he wasn't schizophrenic. I do seem to remember that he did come from a "troubled" background. I don't blame his family for what happened to him. I doubt seriously that they possessed the resources to give him the assistance he required. I do think that it is appropriate to mention that he suffered from addiction and mental issues when commenting on what happened. Perhaps by painting a clearer picture of how a kind and intelligent human being winds up the way that Chris did, we may shed light on how to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. It is a shame that it takes a death to bring attention to a very visible and prevalent problem in today's society that will someday affect your family or circle of friends. So, ask yourselves these questions: What have you done to help someone today? What have you done this week to help a stranger? What are you willing to do? What will you do?
Esmée St James January 16, 2013 at 05:10 AM
What a beautiful way to honor Chris, Gwen. Thank you for helping us moving forward with awareness. Asking ourselves what we can do to help a stranger comes straight from the heart.
Brent Bonham January 16, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I, too, went to school with Chris. I worked with him at the London Oyster for five years. He got fired somewhere around 30 times during that - including the time he put Vegi - Fresh in Bob Wong's coke! He definitely had a flair for pushing the envelope. I remember him as funny and articulate. He was one of the 'triplets' - the other two being Welter and Sandberg. So sad. I've been back in the area for a few years now, and never got to see him. I even spent some time being homeless around Los Gatos shortly after High School. I don't imagine that it has gotten any easier. Combine that with a broken heart, and I will show you a shell of a man. More needs to be done. No act is too small. Actions create actions through the ripple effect. Be a ripple for good.
Esmée St James January 16, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Well spoken, Brent, the ripple effect is more powerful than we can imagine... thank you for the reminder.

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