“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2).” This verse describes my friend Jacob and his situation. I first met Jacob twenty years ago in front of Jack in the Box. He was fifteen, homeless, and riding a BMX bike. He and his younger brother looked like characters from a futuristic, post-apocalyptic sci fi movie. I affectionately referred to them as the, “mountain men” of downtown. Over the years I was able to help connect Jacob to a carpentry mentorship and walk with his brother through cancer treatment. They were two of the wildest street kids I had ever met.
I reconnected with Jacob last year in front of a free community lunch, just a few blocks from the Jack in the Box where we had first met all those years ago. Rooted in patterns of abuse and trauma, it seemed as though time, and his life, had stood still. We tried to meet so we could get his driver’s license. Jacob said it was suspended for driving without insurance. He never showed up and apologizes whenever I run into him. I suspect alcohol is involved with his Department of Motor Vehicle drama. His history of fighting and assault has, in my opinion left him with a traumatic brain injury. I probably will never know what happened to him when he was a toddler.
Jacobs ex-girlfriend is worried about him. He is alone in his tent, smoking synthetic marijuana, and having seizures. She broke the cardinal rule of homelessness and told me where he was camping. She offered to take me to his spot, but we decided I would go look for him on my own. I didn’t want to implicate her in finding someone who does not want to be found. He had mentioned to me once that he had built a house in a ravine. His carpentry mentorship skills were helping him survive or slowly die.
I went to the spot and was baffled as to how he was able get down into the ravine, let alone build a house and not get caught. There are million-dollar views and houses surrounding the pit where he lives. Other homeless people have died in this ravine. A few years ago, there was a gentleman who broke his ankle and couldn’t walk out, slowly dying alone and forgotten. As I stood looking into the tree covered pit, I felt helpless, unable to figure out how to find him. I didn’t want to reveal his spot to the neighbors, I also didn’t think I could get in and out safely.
Jacob’s ex-girlfriend told me he goes to the smoke shop every day for synthetic marijuana. My plan is to hang out there and pray, hoping to share the good news with Jacob that Jesus, “redeems your life form the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:4-5).”