Local 4 Defenders help reunite homeless man with family

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DETROIT – Harold was homeless and freezing. It was below zero and he was sleeping outside.

When his story first aired, it was as though the prayers of his family were answered because it was the first time they had seen Harold in months.

Michael Lee thought his cousin Harold might be dead, but he regularly went out looking for him.

Harold was no longer at his previous residence and had no means of communication because his cellphone wasn't working.

"We'd just been riding around looking for him in neighborhoods he might be, but it was to no avail," said Lee.

While Harold was very much alive, he wasn't doing well—sleeping in an abandoned building in the middle of winter.

Harold had a steady job for more than five years at Eastern Market and that's where his family concentrated their search efforts, but Harold had moved on.

When we found him on the streets, he was collecting bottles and cans in sub-zero temperatures. He was freezing and worried he might die sleeping out in the cold....

"It's a rough real rough road," he said at the time. "I can use any help I can get."

I gave Harold some hand warmers, a few bucks, and directions to a warming center.

When Harold's story first appeared on the news, Michael Lee's phone started blowing up. Lee immediately sent me an email.

"When we saw him on the story you covered, it was both joyous (to know that he's alive) and heart-breaking (to realize that he is homeless)," he wrote. "We'd like to locate him and get him off the streets as soon as possible."

Lee and I met up an we spent a morning talking to homeless, asking if they knew Harold.

We searched a church on Woodbridge, another on Jefferson, and a third on Woodward, but we couldn't find Harold. Then, as Michael and I were saying our good byes, Harold showed up seemingly out of nowhere.

"I got to remember my family," Harold said. "It's a great thing. Hopefully, things are going to get better. Keep faith in the man upstairs, and it will go right for you."

Harold, like many living on the street, hadn't wanted to put out his loved ones, so he tried and go it alone.

"I was trying to keep a secret," he said. "I have a bad heart and I didn't want to be a burden to no one."

But Lee said he's more than happy to assist his cousin.

"That's what family is for you," he said. "[You] can't see one of your family members down and out and not do anything about it."

Though Harold had thought he could make it on his own, today he's humbled and grateful to know his family loves him and is here for him.

"It's great, great, great," Harold said. "I love my family. I was just surprised to see [Lee] here."

Wandering the streets by day and sleeping in abandoned homes by night, at his age and in his health, there is little doubt Harold could have become the next homeless person to literally freeze to death in our backyard.

"It's been real rough," he admitted. "You gotta do what you gotta do to survive."

This time, however, Harold's family came to the rescue. He will be housed and fed through this deep freeze and put on the path to getting back on his feet.

Harold's cousin said the quest to find him opened his eyes to scope of the homeless problem.

"You introduced me to a new world, something I didn't know existed," Lee said. "Going to all these churches, finding all these homeless people seeking shelter from the cold."

There are about 30,000 homeless in metro Detroit. An estimated 3,000 never make it into a shelter and sleep on the street. Donations of blankets, coats, hats, and gloves are crucial this time of year.

To make a donation to help the homeless, contact Sister Judie with the Sisters of Christian Love here.

For more information about warming centers in Detroit, click here.