Helping the Homeless

The kernel of good that can be found in this tragic story, as reported by the Sacramento Bee April 24th, of the homeless man reunited with his daughter after 35 years, who recently died, is that he was reunited before his death and died in the embrace of his family.

He was reunited with his family because someone cared enough to help him reconnect with his daughter—and he cared enough to help himself by becoming engaged in the family reunification effort—as this previous Sacramento Bee story from January 29th reported.

Too often, Sacramento homeless programs merely provide domestic services to the homeless, which tends to reinforce the homeless life, rather than services that lead to helping the homeless to help themselves, which can often lead, as this effort did, to a very important transformation.

A helping hand up, rather than a hand maintaining the status quo, was extended, and he grasped it,

An excerpt from the Aril 24th story.

“WILD ROSE, Wis. – On a spring day that held the threat of snow, Krista Szymborski fed melted ice cream and pureed peaches to her dying father, who had abandoned her and her brothers and sisters so many years ago.

“A few days later her mother, Sandra, gently bathed the lifeless body of the man who back then had left her with five children to raise on a nurse’s salary.

“Forgiveness, they said, comes in many shapes and forms.

“Richard Nary, who died of cancer April 14, just 16 months after his unlikely reunion with the family he had fled more than three decades earlier, made terrible mistakes in his life, the women agreed.

“We all forgave,” said Szymborski, 39, wearing the simple beaded necklace that Nary had around his neck when he hit his low point, sleeping in a cardboard box behind a gas station near Howe Avenue and Hurley Way in Sacramento.

“That doesn’t mean that we forget.”

“Nary, who moved to this sleepy Midwestern town early last year to live with Szymborski and her husband, Craig, died at age 69 in a room filled with family photographs, a wall decorated with greeting cards and a billfold with $113 inside.

“It was far more than he felt he deserved when, nearly two years ago, a stranger rescued him from almost certain death on the streets of Sacramento.

“Yet for Szymborski, who was a toddler when her dad left the family, these final months went all too fast. She was still getting to know Nary when she lost him again to illnesses that likely stemmed from his years of alcoholism, chain-smoking and homelessness.

“He was the center of my world for 16 months,” she said last week, sitting with her mother in the tidy downstairs bedroom where her father spent his final days. “I don’t know what to do without him.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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