"Lacking the bare necessities of life." The Microsoft Encarta Dictionary offers this concise definition to explain the word "indigent."
If a person is lacking the bare necessities of life, even death can be a burden. When an indigent person dies, who is to pay to provide a funeral, burial or cremation?
Some larger metropolitan areas are experiencing the problem in multiples of indigencies, in rising numbers because the national economy has worsened. In Tiffin and Seneca County, the numbers are smaller, but the reality remains the same. Somebody has to pay when an indigent person dies.
"We provide $750 for an indigent burial if the person is a resident of the city of Tiffin," Mayor Jim Boroff said. "Last year I had just maybe three. This year, to my recollection, as I look at it, we've only had two. So they are not really on the rise."
Each year the city of Tiffin allocates between $3,000-$3,500 to pay for burials of indigent people, Boroff said. Family or friends of indigent deceased people - if there are any family or friends - can add another $750 for a total of $1,500 if they have the means, said Robb Mack of Hoffman-Gottfried-Mack Funeral Home.
The cost of a funeral and burial of an indigent person cannot exceed $1,500, Mack said. The average cost of a funeral is normally more than $6,000.
The mayor uses his discretion when the city receives a request for indigent burial money. If the deceased person has any assets at all, those assets should be used instead of city funds, Boroff said. Before the city considers a request, local funeral directors already have reviewed the financial options carefully. Requests to the city come from the funeral directors.
"There are three funeral homes in town," Mack said. "We don't want to abuse it. That (money) comes out of the city budget; and the bigger picture, the county budget. We don't want to abuse that."
Mack said Tiffin is a family-oriented community. Even when it seems a person has no family, that impression could be wrong. People usually step in when someone dies in Tiffin or Seneca County to provide for a funeral, Mack said.
If a family does not have much money to spend, Mack said the best thing to do is be honest and up-front with the funeral director from the beginning. Funeral directors at all three Tiffin funeral homes said they are willing to work with families who have limited resources.
"A lot of times, Jen and I at the funeral home will typically work it out with the family because the city itself is having some difficult times with the current economy," Eric Shook said. Shook operates Engle-Shook Funeral Home. Jen is Shook's wife.
"I don't want to take advantage of that (city indigent burial) fund, so a lot of times we try to make it work in-house with different payment options, reducing our costs and helping the families out," Shook said.
Shook said casket manufacturers offer less expensive options that are still attractive. A less expensive casket helps reduce the overall cost of a funeral and burial. Shook also noted his funeral home is the only funeral home in the county to have a crematory. Cremation can be a less expensive option, Shook said.
Shook, like other funeral directors, said pre-arranging and pre-paying for funerals can make things simpler on families when a person dies.
Unfortunately, truly indigent persons do not have the means for pre-arrangements.
"One of the little know facts is that each township, under state law, each township is responsible for providing a burial space for any of its residents if they are considered indigent," Richard Traunero said. Traunero operates the funeral home bearing his name.
"Most of the township trustees are not aware of this," Traunero said. "Sometimes when that happens to a resident in a township we have to educate the trustees to the state law, but for the most part they have been very cooperative.
"We really don't have that need very often (to apply for indigent burial funds). There is usually someone involved who can at least come up with something and help us meet some kind of expenses. Most of the funeral homes are going to be willing to work with people to come to some kind of agreement, some kind of an equitable resolution for everybody involved."