After 30 Years Alone On The Streets, Police Officer Helps Homeless Man Discover True Identity
Mick Myers had been homeless and alone for so long, he’d hardly known a kind gesture in his 30 years on the streets. Having grown haggard from living outside in the California sun, Myers was weary, and so his panhandling was met with little to no acknowledgement from passersby. But Myers would be met with a change in luck that would alter the course of his life in every possible way. What started as a run-in with the law, when an Alameda County deputy sheriff decided to give Myers a citation, would mark the beginning of a journey neither men could have ever possibly imagined.
1. In the Beginning
When he was but a babe in arms, Mick Myers was adopted by a seemingly kind family in San Leandro, California. Regarded by all as an easy-going kid, he largely kept out of the way of others. He played in the marching band in high school, had friends, and got along well with everyone around him.
But unfortunately, his home life wasn’t as idyllic. His adoptive parents tried to make Myers feel like part of the family, particularly his mother. Myers recalled her as warm and affectionate in his youth, still, not everyone in the Myers household was happy to have him there.
2. Life of a Loner
Despite receiving care and attention from his mother, Myers never really connected with the rest of his family. As his siblings ignored and neglected him, Myers kept to himself almost entirely, becoming increasingly introverted. Myers felt isolated and alone a lot of the time, a feeling that followed him throughout his whole adult life.
Myers would later describe his situation then as “living a life as alone as a person could possibly be.” As he got older, he lost contact with his friends from high school, and as if things couldn’t be bad enough, they’d get worse. Myers would lose the one person with whom he had felt closest.
3. One is the Loneliest Number
Only when he was 16 did Myers find out he had been adopted. And while it explained why he never felt a kinship with the rest of his family, it only made him feel more alone in the world. But when Myers’ adoptive parents passed away, any feeling of closeness he had ever had for his siblings would fall away.
Myers’ siblings, who had never taken to having him in the family, coldly turned their backs on him. After his only remaining family cut off all contact from him, Myers was left all alone. He’d have to find a way to fend for himself.
4. Life on the Road
With no one left and nowhere to call home, Myers got a job as a truck driver. While the job was ideal for someone as used to being on his own as Myers was, it also meant that he’d have scant few opportunities to make friends and interact with others.
The solitary job left him alone for long stretches of time, and after a while the loneliness often became too much to bear. Mick Myers may not have enjoyed his time on the road, but it did pay the bills. Eventually though, Myers lost his job, and was left with no source of income, no one to turn to, and no place to go. That’s when his life would take a drastic change.
5. Begging to Get By
After losing his job, Myers spent the next 30 years living on the streets of San Leandro, California. To afford the occasional hot meal, he’d play his guitar and panhandle around the East Bay area. Myers recalled, “Most of the people just hurry by and don’t even give me a glance.”
Myers never made enough money panhandling to get himself off the streets. And so months turned into years, years turned into decades, and eventually, homelessness became Meyrs’ new normal. Having resigned himself to his lot in life, he never imagined a way to another life, but a chance encounter with an unlikely figure would soon change all that.
6. Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell
Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell of Alameda County knew Mick Myers fairly well from seeing him around town panhandling. As he would make his rounds patrolling the area, he’d spot the seemingly innocuous man and stop to warn him about bothering people for money.
Mick Myers wasn’t looking to be a public nuisance, and he’d certainly never harass anyone, but he knew no other way to make money. Swalwell noticed that no matter how many times he’d warn him to stop going around panhandling, Myers would always turn back up in town, asking for tidings. Finally, Swalwell decided he needed to take more serious action.
7. Final Warning
Swalwell realized that his warnings of further police interference weren’t deterring Myers’ persistent panhandling, and so he decided to make his warning official. Swalwell asked Myers for his ID in order to write up a citation, but Myers informed the deputy sheriff that he didn’t have one.
“I had given him so many warnings, and I asked him for his ID and he said he didn’t have an ID. And I immediately asked, ‘Why don’t you have an ID?'” It was then that Deputy Sheriff Swalwell and Mick Myers struck up a conversation that would go on to change both of their lives.
8. Defying Expectations
Myers and the officer struck up a conversation, and the Deputy Sheriff learned that Myers wasn’t the vagrant he had come to expect. While many assume that most homeless people have found themselves on the streets because of addiction or some such vice, oftentimes it’s far more complicated, as was the case with Mick Myers.
As Swalwell told the CBS local news, “I learned more, that he was disabled and had been homeless for 30 years. He was not an alcoholic, he did not use drugs, he did not use tobacco. He was just a senior citizen on his own.” What options did Myers have?
9. A Change of Heart
Mick Myers explained that he was on the streets because he didn’t have anywhere to call home, and he couldn’t collect social security. In order to receive social security benefits, he’d need an ID, and as he’d told Swalwell when he was trying to write up his citation, he didn’t have one. But his luck was about to change.
Touched with a sense of duty, Swalwell told him: “Well, you’ve got someone to help you now.” Swalwell was prepared to put in the work to help Myers obtain an ID, hoping it would be the first step in getting him off the streets. But he would soon find out that wouldn’t be quite so easy.
10. A False Start
As anyone who has ever had to get their license renewed will attest, the DMV is not exactly a walk in the park. But long lines aside, getting an ID for Myers would turn out to be a lot more complicated than Deputy Sheriff Swalwell had initially anticipated.
While Myers had obviously had a driver’s license back in his days as a truck driver, the DMV had long since erased any record of Mick Myers. The clerk informed them that getting a new ID would require an array of paperwork, the likes of which Myers obviously wouldn’t be able to produce on his own. But Swalwell wasn’t ready to give up so easily.
11. Proof of Residency
The two men were told that Myers would need to provide proof of residency in the state of California. In the absence of a previous license, he would have to present the DMV with his birth certificate and at least two official documents declaring him a California resident — all things he did not have in his possession.
Myers had become so used to disappointment, he wasn’t overwhelmingly surprised by the turn of events at the DMV. On the other hand, Deputy Sheriff Swalwell was dismayed, but still not completely discouraged. First, they would need to figure out how a homeless man was supposed to come up with proof of residency.
12. Not Giving Up
After encountering the roadblock on their path to obtaining an ID from the DMV, Deputy Sheriff Swalwell realized he needed back up. He decided to call in the help of his personal pastor to help him get Myers all the necessary documentation for proof of residence.
Meanwhile, Swalwell gave himself a particularly important assignment. He took it upon himself to personally track down Mick’s birth certificate, and when he found the long-lost piece of paper, it revealed the name he’d been given by his birth parents – Gordon Michael Oakley. With everything in order, Myers would face the final test of whether he’d get a photo ID.
13. A Mutual Understanding
At long last, Myers was finally issued an ID! A local news network caught wind of Myers’ story, and inspired by Deputy Sheriff Swalwell’s act of kindness, they ran a feature on the pair. Myers told reporters: “We both realized at the same time that there is a real person there and not just the stereotype we saw when we first met each other.”
Swalwell explained that, “If it’s something as simple as helping them just to get them back on their feet by getting them an ID so they can get some state or government, federal benefits, then it’s the least we can be doing as law enforcement officers.” It was then that someone else would take notice and catalyze another emotionally life-changing development for Myers.
14. The Attention of Someone Special
Mark Askins, a private investigator with years of experience, first became interested in the California man’s story after watching the news feature on him. Askins was an investigator for Miracle Messages, an non-profit that works to reunite homeless persons with any living relatives they may have, but may not know about.
After hearing about Myers’ story, Askins reached out to express his interest in taking on his case. Myers gave Askins permission to dig through his past, although his life of loneliness had him less than optimistic as to what Askins would find. With Myers on board, Askins got to work.
15. Doing Detective Work
Investigator Askins pulled box after box of old ledgers, using Myer’s birth name, Gordon Michael Oakley, that Deputy Sheriff Swalwell had uncovered from his birth certificate as his guide. After reading countless cases, Askins finally came across two names that caught his attention.
There, at the bottom of one of the ledgers were the names “Wiley Albert Oakley” and “Maria Pauline Oakley.” Intrigued, Askins had boxes of microfilm that included anything related to Wiley or Maria Oakley pulled, and began sifting through the records. From there, a little-known aspect of Myers early life would play out before his very eyes.
16. Marie Pauline Oakley
Askins discovered that Myers’ birth mother was named Marie Pauline Oakley, and her early years had also not been the easiest. At the impressionable age of 16, Marie met sailor Wiley Oakley, and in a whirlwind, the pair got married in Reno. Shortly thereafter the newlyweds moved to Tennessee, and that’s where things took a turn.
As she would later recall: “The cabin was ramshackle. The cracks in the wall were so wide that snakes and other animals would come in.” With a newborn that needed tending to, Marie was unable to go out and make her own money. How would she care for herself and her child?
17. Fending For Herself
Marie’s husband gave all his naval pay to his mother, leaving nothing for her and the baby. “There was a bed for me to sleep in, but there was no crib for the baby. I had to put two chairs together and put a food locker on it,” she described to reporters.
Her mother-in-law would only give her enough money for formula for the baby, and Marie recounted a time when she was so hungry, she stole vegetables from the neighbor’s garden. Finally, she decided that her baby deserved better, and so she packed up and went back home to her mother in California. There, she’d make a decision that forever change both her life and that of her newborn.
18. Gordon Michael Oakley
Arriving in the East Bay of California, again pregnant and with a toddler in tow, Marie Pauline called her mother and asked if she could come home. When her mother picked her up at the train station, she hardly recognized her own daughter, who’d grown thin and ragged.
Marie Pauline recounted that: “My life was not what I expected out of a marriage.” And so, after arriving back in California, her mother petitioned the courts for an annulment to the marriage. Eventually, Marie gave birth to her second child, a baby boy named Gordon Michael Oakley. But the happy little family would be met with more challenges.
19. No Other Choice
At just two years old, the baby boy was diagnosed with a life-threatening hole in his stomach. Distraught, Marie knew she would never be able to afford the surgery her precious baby boy needed to survive. At her mother’s urging, the baby was adopted to a family from the local church.
“My back was against the wall. I had to do what was best for him,” she explained. Marie’s little boy was indeed the man now known as Mick Myers, and while he did receive the medical care he needed, his life, as we now know, was not exactly idyllic. Marie had often wondered what had become of her baby boy, but she never expected that she’d find out.
20. Lost and Found
Mick was already in his late 60s , but hoping against hope, Mark Askins set about seeing if Marie Pauline was still alive. To his pleasant surprise, she was still alive! Not only did Askins find Myers’ birth mother, he was able to track down her most recent address too.
After Askins made initial contact to ensure that the Marie Pauline he’d found was the same woman who had given Myers up for adoption, Askins discovered that she had been going by the name Polly, and was living in nearby Humboldt County. It was then that he happily informed her that he’d found the whereabouts of the son she’d given up for adoption.
21. For the First Time in 65 Years
Mick and Polly first connected by phone. Myers nervously spoke into the phone introducing himself by his birth name. Polly, overjoyed on the other end of the receiver called out, “My son!” The two were on the phone for a long time, still in shock at having found one another.
Within two weeks from that first fateful phone call, Myers boarded a plane for the very first time in his life. Joined by Deputy Sheriff Swalwell and Mark Askins, the plane, operated by a volunteer crew, took off for Humboldt County. Soon, mother and son would be reunited at long last.
22. More Than Just a Mother
When Myers landed he was greeted by a young woman named Shannon, who had come to pick him up and deliver him to Polly. As she extended her hand, she told Myers, “I’d be your niece.” Myers was in shock, he didn’t just have a mother, he had a sibling and a niece!
After her difficult youth, Polly had remarried, had children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Everyone accepted Myers with open arms, ready to take him into the family. Mick couldn’t believe how suddenly his life was changing. After so many years of loneliness, he was overcome, and frankly, overwhelmed. But the heartwarming developments weren’t over.
23. Reunited at Last
Before Mick could even get through the front door, Polly had him wrapped in her arms. The two embraced for a long time, so profoundly happy to have finally found each other. Myers had brought along his new guitar, a gift from Deputy Sheriff Swalwell, and his high school yearbook, to share with Polly.
Polly was deeply saddened by Mick’s life story, but was elated to be reunited with him after so many years had passed. Myers was also overcome with joy given the overwhelmingly happy turn of events. “Who’d have thought that something like this could have happened to anybody – let alone me!” he exclaimed. Still, Myers and his mother weren’t the only ones moved by what had transpired.
24. An Eye-Opening Experience
Both Polly and Mick were so grateful to Deputy Sheriff Swalwell for deciding to take an interest in Mick. Instead of writing him off as some burden on society, Swalwell understood Myers was simply someone who had gone through life misunderstood and unaccepted.
But Mick and Polly weren’t the only ones changed by the experience. After reuniting a family, Deputy Sheriff Swalwell confessed, “It has opened my eyes to others in Mick’s situation.” While Askins agreed. “All of us is family all of us is somebody’s someone,” the savvy investigator said. Indeed, Mick Myers went from having no one, to having a family, and some very special friends. And their story wouldn’t end there.
25. A Loving Family at Last
After a wonderful day of a family reunited, Mick had to return to Alameda County. Before they parted ways, however, the mother and son made plans to spend the upcoming holidays together. Polly even invited Mick to come live with her and her husband.
While Mick considers a move to Humboldt County where his birth family resides, he now has an ID to help him land a job, fly out to his family, and collect social security to help him get back on his feet. The kindness of one stranger, Deputy Sheriff Swalwell, was all Mick needed to help him go from alone and homelessness, to a new change at life along with a large and loving family.
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