How do I find a homeless person?
June 28, 2016 3:18 PM   Subscribe

A homeless guy I've known for years had dropped off the grid. Help me make sure he's ok.

D usually texts me every few days, (and has for years), but I've heard nothing from him, he doesn't respond to my texts, and his phone isn't taking calls (not a surprise.) When this happens, he's usually locked up in the DeKalb or Fulton County jail, and I can find his booking info online. That's not working this time, and I'm worried. I've tried inmate lookup for other metro Atlanta counties, but come up empty. Now, D isn't exactly the type to carry government ID or sleep in a shelter. (He's got some people he crashes with, but all I really know about them is they're unlikely to react well to a white stranger knocking on their door and asking questions.)

I'm worried something has happened to him, and he's in the hospital or worse. He is not seriously mentally ill, and behaves rationally, so it's unlikely he just decided to run off on a whim. He also doesn't use hard drugs, so I'm fairly certain he's not holed up in a shooting gallery or crack house.

I'm planning on looking in some places I know he stays, but if I come up empty I'm not sure what else I can do. I'm not family, so hospitals won't tell me squat, so calling them is out. I would file a missing persons report, but I know he's on probation, and I don't want the police involved unless it's an absolute last resort because I know they'll lock D up if they find him (if they even bother looking for a missing guy with no fixed address), and that won't accomplish a damn thing.

So, I'm taking a long shot and asking for suggestions. Do you have experience looking for people who live on the margins? Can you give me some advice? Is there someone besides law enforcement I can ask for help? Any ideas are appreciated. I'm in Atlanta, Georgia.
posted by dortmunder to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd try posting in the /r/Atlanta subreddit.
posted by heathrowga at 3:30 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was sooooo hot this past weekend....maybe he did go to a shelter or a cooling station? I would check with the bigger shelters (Pine St. etc.) just to be sure....
posted by pearlybob at 3:43 PM on June 28, 2016

I'm not family, so hospitals won't tell me squat, so calling them is out.

Many hospitals I'm familiar with will provide basic "directory information" about patients unless they've been specifically asked not to do so, though some may refuse. They won't give you any medical information of course, but they may confirm whether someone with that name is there or was recently there.
posted by zachlipton at 5:14 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even though he's not the type of person to stay in a shelter, remember that the homeless community is exactly that: community. Someone will definitely know where he is - whether that's visiting family, in the hospital, in jail, etc.

You'll likely have to do some legwork and actually go to the local shelter, or the drop-in, or the soup kitchen (or all of the above) and ask around. Depending on the details of where he is, staff may be able to help (or may not, depending on confidentiality rules).

People in the community may not trust you to have good intentions, unless D has mentioned you, so be prepared to ask if they'll pass along a message/note from you. It's not uncommon for people to be avoiding contact with family, for example, and no one wants to be the friend who let slip where someone's hiding out.

I hope he gets in touch with you soon. I've lost touch with homeless friends for long periods of time, feared the worst, and it's just the best thing in the world when they pop back up.
posted by VioletU at 5:36 PM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Do you have a picture of him? I would not post it anywhere, but it helps to show around to locals who may have seen him but don't know his name. If he frequented a coffee shop or diner or some local business, they may have some information. If there is a local beat cop, you don't have to make a formal filing, but could ask if he has seen him around. As for hospitals, I have just called and asked for First Name Last Name's room and have had both "We have no one registered here under that name" and "He does not have a phone in the room" which obviously told me he was there.
posted by AugustWest at 9:11 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

He is not seriously mentally ill, and behaves rationally, so it's unlikely he just decided to run off on a whim.

I am homeless. I have relocated a few times very suddenly and without warning because I ran into trouble of some sort. It is a bit more complicated than that, but my point is that if you are homeless, you do not need to be mentally ill or irrational to appear to run off on a whim.

FWIW, I haven't really experienced much sense of community with other homeless individuals. When I relocated, other homeless individuals with whom I was acquainted were told nothing. I also said nothing to anyone at soup kitchens and other services. I just left, quietly.

I am saying that not to discourage you from checking around but to suggest that one of the benefits of being homeless is that, to some degree, you can pick and choose your ties. You are less socially obligated than average to notify people as to where you are going and why. So, if you get no info, that may be inconclusive as to what it means.

If he is on probation and this dictates limits on where he can go, that might be a reason to not up and leave. Or, if he ran into serious social friction, it might be a reason to leave and not reply to texts or otherwise let anyone know what he is up to.

Can you give me some advice?
What do you know about his personal habits? Do you know anything about places he goes, activities he pursues? Places someone frequents or similar types of activities is a fairly reliable way to find someone. If he goes to (for example) Starbucks once a week, ask around at his usual Starbucks, but also ask around at other Starbucks locations or other coffee houses.

Habits are inherently hard to break. Even when someone wants to disappear, checking out places that correlate to their usual activities frequently outs them.
posted by Michele in California at 11:04 AM on June 29, 2016

Good news! (sort of) My friend just called me from the DeKalb County Jail, where he was just booked in. So, he's incarcerated, but ok. Apparently I couldn't locate him because he had been in the Atlanta City Jail for the last ten days. He's just in on a probation violation and there are no new charges. I have no idea why he was booked into Atlanta City, or why it took so long to transfer him to the county where he's on probation, but he's unharmed and sounded good. I told him he's got to start reporting to his PO when he gets released, or else he's just going to keep getting locked up over and over, and I think he listened, because I know he's sick of spending time in jail for basically no reason. Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions. Now, to call his mom in the Virgin Islands and let her know her son is alive an well.
posted by dortmunder at 4:52 PM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

« Older Hottest ginger cordial recipe   |   Transgender therapy? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.