Families struggle with burial costs in tough economy

An open casket at Poteat Funeral Home in a Albany, Ga. / Jessica Fairley

A local family is struggling to find a way to bury a loved one who passed away on New Year's Eve.

35-year-old Derek Byrd leaves behind five children and family and friends who adored him.

According to his best friend, Calvin Barfield, the family is also stressed out trying to raise money for a proper burial. He says they've held cake sales and pitched in funds, but the money still isn't enough.

"I would like everyone to think of it as their brother, son, father. What if you were in that situation and you knew that the family was struggling," said Calvin Barfield.

Funeral officials say this is one of many instances where families aren't able to bury their dead.

"It's happening more often. Years ago you didn't see it as much but now it's more often because of the economic time that we're living in," said Jeffrey Wakefield, Poteat Funeral Home Director.

Often times when families can't afford a burial, funeral officials step in to seek help by contacting the Department of Family and Children Services. If investigators find the family isn't able to pay, tax payers help pay the bill.

"The county commission would determine the amount that's paid to the funeral home. It's in their budgeting," said Jeffrey Wakefield.

Some families seek help through legal aid while others may ask churches. The family of Derek Byrd has set up an account for donations at Members United Credit Union.

Funeral officials say in the event that a deceased person doesn't have a family member to raise funds for a funeral, they are asked to provide a pauper's graveside burial. They say many funeral homes account for this in their yearly budget as a way to give back to the community.

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