Seattle's homeless community is mourning the loss of 20-year-old Nicholas "Rooster" Helhowski, who died Sunday, April 14. He'd been comatose since Saturday. According to the police report, Helhowski suffered massive head injuries after two Hispanic men violently attacked him at the North 85th Street and Wallingford Avenue bus stop at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11. (The four suspects include the men and their two female companions.)

It's been a tough couple of months for the street community. Just last week, a young street woman was attacked on University Way, and in March, 28-year-old Steven "Filth" Greenberg died of an overdose. But Helhowski's death seems to have struck a nerve. "He really stood out from the other kids," recalls Street Outreach Services Director Kris Nyrop. "It's just sad. He was really making some powerful progress in his life." Indeed.

After being on the streets for two years, Helhowski--a funny, good-looking young man who liked the TV show Spin City, enjoyed skateboarding, and wore a suit when he could--joined the AmeriCorps program in August. He also volunteered at the YMCA, and met with Mayor Nickels in March about homelessness issues.

Helhowski also recently got a room at the Harder House, where he shared responsibilities and living space with other former street kids. "Every morning he would knock on my door and wake me up to say, 'Have a good day,'" remembers one roommate, 20-year-old Tiffanie Snow. "I loved him for that." Marina, another former street kid, remembers Nicholas as a "cocky bastard on the outside, and the sweetest thing you'll ever see underneath." Marina was especially close to Nicholas. They were engaged, and planned to move to California next year to make a fresh start. To make a donation in Nicholas' name, contact Elaine Simons at Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS), 726-8500.