Maybe a half-dozen homeless residents die each year in Deschutes County, in central Oregon, commonly without family to be notified or anyone to claim the body. Sally Lybarger, though, she had friends.

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BEND, Ore. — Sally Lybarger was exactly two months shy of her 80th birthday when she started having difficulty breathing. She was rushed to a hospital, but died hours later.

Her life was celebrated by tearful friends at a memorial Sept. 10 at the Family Kitchen in Bend.

Lybarger spent the bulk of her final years living out of her car in Bend. It wasn’t until months before her death that she got into the Quimby Street Apartments, affordable housing for low-income seniors.

Despite Lybarger’s transient lifestyle, she was well-known for her participation in Bend City Council meetings and a voracious appetite for local news. At the memorial, her friends’ stories painted a picture of a woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, stood up for homeless people and enthusiastically volunteered at Bend’s Methodist Church.

“I loved her like a mother,” said John Regan, a Bend resident and friend who helped her eventually move from her van into her apartment. “I confided a lot in her.”

Yet the outpouring of love and grief at the loss of Lybarger does not always come when homeless people die. Often, friends and family do not grieve. The body isn’t claimed. Nobody says prayers, lights candles or sings favorite songs at a memorial service.

“It is really sad, because the majority of times there isn’t family to be contacted,” said Colleen Thomas, homeless-outreach coordinator for Deschutes County Mental Health.

Neither state nor local agencies track the number of homeless deaths in central Oregon. Local law-enforcement estimates suggest about a half-dozen homeless residents die in Deschutes County each year.

Local and state officials say tracking the number of deaths is difficult because it’s hard to identify whether someone is truly homeless. For instance, people may be couch surfing or have listed a relative’s home as a permanent address even if they aren’t actually living there.

“When we encounter someone not living in a residence of some type and it’s obvious they are living out of their car, RV, or a tent in the woods, we would use the term transient or homeless,” said Lt. Chad Davis of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

But otherwise, it’s difficult to label, Davis said.

Central Oregon’s homeless die from a number of causes — suicide, medical problems, a few freeze to death in the harsh winters, according to law-enforcement officials and service providers.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Amanda Lenke, board chairwoman of the Bend Community Foundation, which offers services to feed and keep the homeless warm in winter.

Aaron Adams is a funeral director at Redmond Memorial, whose parent company has several funeral homes in the region. Since May 2016, they has taken care of three homeless people who died, he said.

“It’s not overwhelmingly common,” said Adams. “But it’s not uncommon.”

A homeless person’s death is handled like any other. If law enforcement can’t get in touch with relatives, local funeral homes are required to try to track down family and hold onto the body until state law allows otherwise.

The rules for dealing with unclaimed, or “indigent,” bodies are strict — sometimes it can take months before funeral homes can dispose of them, said Adams. Funeral homes are required to contact agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to the Oregon Department of State Lands before they’re allowed to dispose of a body in the least expensive way possible, said Adams.

“Typically, we have to move much slower with indigent persons because we have to hold on to the possibility that someone might come out of the woodwork to claim their loved one,” said Adams. Most often, he said, the bodies are cremated.

Lenke, of the community foundation, said occasionally homeless people ask her organization for a place to hold memorials for friends or camp mates.

“What happens a lot of times is there’s no one to recognize or remember them … ” said Lenke.

Cindy Tidball, who works at Family Kitchen, said she still has an impulse to grab a newspaper to save for Lybarger, as she did for years when Lybarger came to the kitchen for lunch. Unlike the many homeless who will die unnoticed, Lybarger will be missed, said Tidball.

“We don’t know her whole life; we only know little bits and pieces,” said Tidball. “She was a good woman.”