Thursday, June 18, 2015

Update on my Son Joseph

Joseph with his nieces April 2014
I want all of you to know how important it is for us to see, recognize that homeless people have faces, they have families, they have feelings and while many of them have addictions, many do not and many are mentally ill and lost in a world where they do not fit in and where mental health services are continually cut to the bone.

In April, we took our family vacation and spent a day with Joseph and his amazing dog Hunter (Hunter's life expectancy is not much longer so please pray for Joseph, this loss will be a huge blow to him!).

The first thing we did was take him to get his ID card. Since it has been lost or stolen so many times, we took the original to a friends home and gave him a paper copy. Honestly, he was so drunk, I am surprised they took his picture, but the lady at the counter was very sweet.

Then we took him to Saturdays Hair Salon.
Saturday's is a very nice salon and Joseph wanted his hair and beard cut.  I was blown away, amazed and in tears before we left. 

Everyone knows him, everyone greeted him with smiles, the young lady that did his hair and beard treated him with care and compassion. It was an amazing experience for me! We walked out with me barely able to say thank you.

Since that day, I have an agreement with Saturday's. Anytime Joseph walks in for a hair cut or beard trim, they call me to ensure I can cover it and they give him a good shampoo, cut and trim. I have come to think of this salon as family!

After that, we took him to get a new hat. Funny, he wouldn't but his old one on his fresh wash and cut head, said it was stinky!!!

We had pre-arranged with several of his family members and my ex-in laws (aunts, uncles, sister-in-law, niece) to meet up with all of us at a local Mexican Food Restaurant and to my joy, they knew Joseph very well. So well in fact, they had to make sure he didn't take his beer bottle outside when he went to smoke.

Joseph has chosen the homeless lifestyle for many years. With the exception of his father, all of us have tried to get him help, paid for detox facilities, rescued his dog from the pound, picked him up from jail, etc.  I say this because so many times people think it is okay to go on the attack against me for him being homeless. We cannot control our children after they turn 18 and the law does not allow us to 'commit them!'

I say this because everyone in town seems to know him and while eating we had a young couple that glared for several minutes at us, up until the above picture was taken and I think what they saw was a man who is so loved by his family even though he had lost his way.

Fast forward to now:
  • Joseph had a dream one night, called his uncle the next day, entered a detox facility and has been sober for more than 4 months.
  • During his sobriety, he quit smoking cold turkey!
  • Joseph is still homeless, but working closely with a woman who has gotten him into see doctors and other professionals to get him the medical care he needs and to help him receive the benefits he needs. **Before you snarl and judge, Joseph is legally mentally ill, spent several years in group homes, has a technical certification in the cable business but due to a severe speech impediment, does not speak well!**
  • Joseph has numerous business owners who love him and will allow him to use his cell phone to call me or his aunt and uncle who live locally.
  • Joseph is my news son. While his older brother lives in town, it is Joseph who tells me when one of my ex-in-laws is sick or passes away and he will seek another street person out he knows has a computer to contact me. He just always keeps me posted!
  • Joseph has spent many years at the bottom of a bottle, he knows it, I don't need to tell him that, but his mind is like a well-oiled machine, he remembers dates, details and happenings, that most of us do NOT remember, it amazes us.
  • Joseph is homeless, but he is not uncaring. On Christmas day a local Hispanic family that brings him water, food, dog treats, etc. brought him a cooler full of Tamales. He shared one with his brother, he ate one and then put them away. His brother says about 15 minutes later, a man came by asking about Tamales and where he could find some. Joseph walked over and handed the man (in a Cadillac Escalade) the entire cooler and wished him Merry Christmas. When his brother asked him why, his reply was, 'I had one, I have no place to keep them, the man wanted some for his family.' No money was exchanged, just a homeless person blessing someone who wasn't homeless!
  • On Mother's Day, Joseph called me in tears because he couldn't send me flowers! I was crying and told him, the best gift he gave me was a phone call!
Yes, my son is still homeless, but what I want to let you know is he is sober, he is non-smoking, he has family who loves him, he has never been arrested for theft or drugs, only vagrancy and drunk in public. The judge saw him sober for the first time in years, saw his change and dropped the charges and told the officer, 'why do you keep bringing the homeless to me for these charges? You know they can't pay, can't make it to court, what is the point? Save the jails for criminals!!! AMEN!!!

I will be the first to say I don't give money to most people asking for it. I recently saw a homeless vet that lost his leg and while I had no money, I told him thank you for your service, he cried!

I recently walked out of a business and saw a young man sitting on a bench, he took his shoes off which were well worn and was putting on new socks. He looked up at me, he smiled and never said a word...I gave him the last $5 my husband had and told him, 'I know you didn't ask for this, but I feel I needed to give it to you.' 

With huge tears in his eyes, he whispered, 'Thank you, God Bless You!' 

Joseph told me during our last phone conversation. 'Mom, all the drunk and druggie homeless want me to start drinking again. I now know why. When I am drunk, the steal my stuff. Now that I am sober, they can't take anything from me and they are jealous because they know I am getting better.'

He stays in the shadows as most homeless do, in doorways of closed businesses, he stays where the police can see him when they patrol (they have asked him to, so they can check on him), he stays to himself...but they come...NOT the people who could offer him help, not the people who sit in pews and act so holy on Sunday's, not the man he gave the Tamales to, no, none of them come to offer him a cool drink of water, but they do offer him comments that are hurtful.

The others, the come to. The drunks and druggies come to harass him and he walks away with Hunter his trusted friend and companion for so many years that is getting older and one day will cross over the Rainbow bridge. The family that brings him fresh cool water each day, those that buy him his favorite Subway sandwich, the aunts, uncles, cousins who bring him fresh clothes and take the dirty ones to wash.

Joseph will make it, because Joseph has family who cares. Family who love him and while we cannot control his life, we are thankful he is with us.

Please, I am not seeking pity from anyone or condemnation, I am just letting you know the next time you see a homeless person, think of Joseph and if you do nothing more than reach out to say hello, well, sometimes that is all they need, is someone to acknowledge they are not invisible!



Sara said...

Good to hear that your son is doing well and that family still maintains that much needed care and contact with him. Mental illness is cruel for both the person afflicted and for those who love them.

ValerieKat said...

Thank you and God bless you and your family.

StanleyBeagle said...

Dear Quilting Granny,

I came across this post purely by chance as I was looking through Thank you so much for sharing this post. It is a great reminder that behind every face we pass by on the street there is a story. I am a mental health clinician and I volunteer among a largely homeless population. To hear from a family member who offers love and hope regardless of living circumstances is wonderful. Best wishes to you, your family and especially Joseph.

StanleyBeagle said...

sorry I misread your name!