Sunday, April 13, 2014

Please Help Me Find Gary, the Homeless Clergy Abuse Survivor Who Disappeared

Then this morning when I got on Facebook, I received an appeal from the sister of a clergy abuse survivor named Gary who I have worked with since 2007.  She and her mother had not seen him nor heard from him for months.  Did I know anything about him?  Could I look for him?

The answer is I have not heard from him or seen him in months but of course I will go look for him.

You know, I have been feeling that I was tired of working on the clergy abuse issue because lots of people have taken my help and not given back and have not acknowledged what I have done.  There are many good people doing good things in the Catholic Church, but too many in leadership would rather keep the issue quiet and too many parishioners have feet of clay.  However, just because the Church has failed as a whole to adequately care for survivors and, truthfully, parishes wounded by abuse, it does not mean that the good done by Catholic supported homeless shelters or soup kitchens or just plain ordinary support given to families or elderly parishioners or support for social justice issues is invalid. It is valid.  I respect the Church for all the good it has done.

But I am tired of trying to help heal a Church that thinks it knows everything and does't want healing.

I also hold clergy abuse survivors accountable too because many people who are healed enough to change things are stuck in a mind set that only one way works -- lawsuits and demonstrating in front of churches.

These are good for getting attention and providing resources for healing.  They won't solve the issue as they don't reach out to the hearts of Catholics where they are.  Instead ordinary Catholics feel like a victim of never ending anger of people who don't want to heal.

I am not saying that is right.  I am just saying that is what they feel.

Both sides of the issue want the other to change so they can heal.

As long as everything keeps doing the same old thing and remain closed to genuine change, things won't change.

I feel as though I am banging my head against the wall trying to get people to try another way and decided that it really wasn't worth the effort anymore.  I decided that I was not going to read Abuse Tracker any more.  I decided I wasn't going to address the issue any more in blogs anymore.

But when Gary's family contacted me, I felt I could not walk away from him.

Gary was always very fragile.  I tried to get therapy for him but the Victim's Assistant for the Archdiocese of Portland would not work with me because I was not the man's attorney.  Gary's attorney did not want him to get therapy but did take him to a psychiatrist who was willing to prescribe him an addictive anti-anxiety medication.  Or so the Gary told me.  I don't know the attorney's side of the story because he never returned my phone calls.  Gary had already gone to SNAP for support but the local SNAP leader was tired of working on the issue and the SNAP support group had faded away.  Elizabeth Goeke, who is a clinical counselor and clergy abuse survivor had run it, and I organized it for her for a year and a half, but nobody came until the day someone new came and said he was running the SNAP support group, and that I was not welcome because I am not a clergy abuse survivor.  There were no more SNAP meetings after that until Jeannie Cratty came to Oregon a few years later.  Jeannie tried to get a group going, but I dot think anything lasting happened.

So I don't know what happened to SNAP other than not much seems to be happening with SNAP in Oregon.

Gary sued the Church and was offered 1.5 million dollars as he told me.  He wanted more and turned down the offer.  His lawyer fired him or he fired his lawyer.  I don't know which.  Gary represented himself and received somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000.  The Church offered to put him up in an apartment.  He turned that down.  He said he needed long term in patient drug and alcohol treatment.   He was not offered that treatment.

But anyway, I tried to get Gary some help but not much seemed available.  I found him some free counseling, but he felt it was too little.  Although he later did take advantage of counseling offered by Multnomah County.  What I did however was call him and take his calls and take him to court a few times as he had a habit of vandalizing Catholic Churches.  Eventually his Mom sold her house and did not take him with her when she moved.  He became homeless.  For four years he slept under a bridge in North Portland.  Sometimes I went by and gave him groceries.  Sometimes a year passed, and I did not visit him as I was not sure where he was.  He did not have a phone anymore, but he would go to the library and get on the internet and I heard from him through Facebook.  Once he asked me to meet him in a park, but he did not show up.  Fortunately last year I found him again by walking the streets in North Portland where he used to live.

He was still living under the bridge and had acquired a Samoan girlfriend who appeared schizophrenic.  They fought and drank together and showered at the homes of her Samoan friends.  Once he told me he had fallen off the bridge -- 35 feet -- to the railroad tracks below.  His girlfriend found him and he was taken to the hospital and patched up and sent back out to the streets.  He walked with a cane and complained of pain.  Then the police told him he had three days to move from the bridge or they would take his belongings.  I knew a homeless community, Right2DreamToo, that would accept him and his girlfriend as most shelters do not allow couples to stay together.  So I arranged to meet him and take him and his girlfriend to this homeless community.  They did not stay.  I had the feeling that the girlfriend was overwhelmed by all the people in the community.

Still I heard from him on Facebook.  He said he was living in the alley behind the house where his mother used to live.  Sometimes he visited his mother for the weekend, took a shower and laundered his clothes.  I offered to bring him sleeping bags and warm clothes and old shower curtains to keep out the damp as well as food.  He accepted the offer.  Three times during this last fall I drove to North Portland with my goodies.  Three times he was not there.  His Facebook posting fell silent.  There was only so much I could do.  Maybe I could go to the police in North Portland and ask them but I did not.

I was growing tired of working on an issue where people routinely criticized me and did not acknowledge my help.  My personal life has been overwhelming for some time now.  My children's need for my time has intensified as they grew older.  I am always a Mom first.

But them this morning, the Gar's sister sent me a message.  It had been months since she had her mother had heard from her brother.  Did I know anything about him?

I wanted to walk away from the clergy abuse issue, but I cannot walk away from that human being, Gary, who just happened to be a homeless clergy abuse survivor.  One more time today I will drive to North Portland and walk the railroad tracks and the back alleys and look for him.

My next thought is if we, as a society and we people of the Catholic Church are not going to offer adequate drug and alcohol treatment to survivors, and if we as a society do not wish to see homeless people on the streets but we don't want to provide adequate shelter, then people are going to die.

That has always been my fear for Gary -- that he would die under a bridge -- and I would never hear from him again and never know what happened.

I have one consoling thought.  At least I tried and gave it my best year after year after year.

Gary always thanked me.  Gary was always kind to me.  That was all I needed to keep on trying for Gary.

My next thought is how many survivors are there out there like Gary?  I know the answer.  Most of the homeless people I know have suffered from one form of trauma or biologically based mental illness.

Am I not my brother and sister's keeper?

We cannot expect that someone else has taken care of a problem and all we need to do is be obedient to authority whoever that authority is.  We all have responsibility for making the right thing happen.

Just one more thought, we need shelter for married and unmarried couples as often another person is our most important source of support.  Whether or not they are married should not be an issue, because it is more important that we cherish a person's life than for us to be worried about whether or not they are living in sin.

I am not going to Mass today.  I am going to Quaker meeting.My ancestors were Quakers, Religious Society of Friends, who came to America in 1687 to escape religious persecution in England.  They could not be obedient to human authorities when they knew the human authorities were wrong. They were pacifists and peacemakers and among first abolitionists and feminists.  They gave aid to Japanese Americans put in "Internment Camps" by the US government during World War II.  They see the light of God in everyone including people others consider enemies.   They believe that we are all responsible for acting.

They do not believe that it is a sin to not be obedient to authority, especially when that authority is doing the wrong thing.

They believe the converse -- that it is wrong to follow authority when authority is doing the wrong thing.

After Quaker meeting I am driving to North Portland to look for Gary.

If you want to help, please contact me at

I finally got a smartphone and can receive e-mails anywhere anytime.  The Quaker in me gave into materialism as it could serve a good purpose.

© 2014 Virginia Pickles Jones

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