LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – A homeless man who lived on the streets of Little Rock for over a decade is now back home with his family in Illinois after one woman took the time to learn his story.
Working in downtown Little Rock for over 10 years, Dawn Gieber is used to seeing homeless people outside the office.
"People just look at homeless people different I guess and that's heartbreaking because they’re a person down here,” Dawn said.
But there was always one man Dawn frequently ran into and always felt the need to help out.
"We're used to seeing James on the street every day,” Dawn said. "He was cold, he was hungry, he was eating out of garbage cans. He understood if I didn’t have a couple of dollars that day, but I would always try and make up for it when I saw him.”
James was living on the streets of downtown Little Rock for almost 15 years. Dawn said she would frequently have conversations with him on smoke breaks, when last November she decided to get to know him a little more.
“I happened to ask him one day, 'James why you homeless?' He ran into some rough time 15 years prior,” she said. “He had been trying to find his family [since then]. He had no way to find them and they were in Illinois.”
It was then, Dawn decided she needed to do more than just give him some spare change. Dawn said other people would offer James help, but nobody ever really came through.
"I contacted my fiancé and I explained the situation and we just started looking up names, addresses, anything we could find,” she said.
Dawn and her now husband Jodi Gieber spent hours leaving messages on all sorts of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, explaining the situation. A little over a week before last Thanksgiving, she got a phone call back.
"It was his niece and she was crying, and she said ‘You're calling about my uncle, he's dead!’ I said 'No, as a matter a fact he's alive and well, he's been looking for you for 15 years,” Dawn said.
After that, Dawn and Jodi took James off the street, and brought him home to clean him up. They decided they personally were going to drive him home to Illinois. But James had a few warrants out of Little rock District, and Dawn could not take him home until he was cleared.
“I called district court and walked down there and explained [to the judge] the situation. I was willing to pay his fines, court costs,” Dawn said.
The judge completely cleared James’ warrants. Dawn and Jodi left for Illinois soon after where James was reunited with his brother and family.
"He lived on the streets. No way to communicate. No way to try and get a hold of them,” Dawn said. “It had been so long since he’d been up there. He just didn’t know where to start.”
Dawn said James is now in Wisconsin with his sister. She said he is a completely new man, and is happy he’s been given a second chance at life.
"We're all the same. Just treat everybody with a bit of respect. People don't understand maybe why they're in that situation. Things happen and unfortunately people end up homeless or bad situations that they didn't expect, just remember we're all people,” Dawn said.