Ruben's Story by Janice O'Brien

This is only one of many stories showing how difficult it is to get into rehab and the many hurdles to be crossed even for a very determined person who happens to be homeless. 

I got a call from our Secretary, Susan Molloy, giving me the phone number of someone who needs help with transportation to Behavioral Health the next day.  I called the number and learned that the caller, Ruben, was from Sparks, Nevada and had an appointment with the county worker, Jan Sprier, who would help him get into alcohol rehab. I promised to pick him up the next day and take him to the county office.

We arrive at the office at 1:00 p.m. and Ruben realizes he has left his phone charging at Pioneer Park. I hurry back to Pioneer Park to retrieve it for him hoping it hasn't been picked up by some other homeless person. I find it and take it back to him. He is so happy – without his phone, he's lost. We wait and wait. At 2:15 p.m. he is finally called in. I wait for him because he has no transportation back to Brunswick where he wants to stay at Hospitality House for the night. 

 It is so hard to stay sober on the streets. He is not eligible to go to CORE because he has no money and the county can only pay for 14 days. He knows he has a serious alcohol addiction and needs 10 to 12 months in rehab.  He wants desperately to get well. 

Ruben emerges from the inner office with a huge smile on his face. He is so happy. Jan Sprier phoned many alcohol and drug rehab facilities around the state to find him a bed. She has found an opening for him at the Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa. He's given an application that he is to fill out and fax to them before morning. 

He hoped to find help at Hospitality House. By now it is 3:00 p.m. but sign-in happens at 4:00 p.m.  Ruben had told me how he got to Nevada City. A sober friend of his in Nevada told him about Progress House in Nevada City.  (This is the Bost House that the county is set to renovate and begin operating as an alcohol/drug and mental health facility in March.)  It used to be a rehab house and his friend had gone there and did very well.  He felt sure that Ruben who was so motivated to get well would also do very well there. So, they both hitchhiked to Nevada City, went to Progress House and found it all boarded up. They were so disappointed but Ruben was determined to find a way and did not give up. 

He called Behavioral Health and set up an appointment. The problem was, Ruben didn't know where the office was nor how he would get there. That's when he met local homeless folks who told him to call me. He had tried to stay at Hospitality House the week before and was refused because he had been drinking. Since he had not had anything to drink that day, he was confident he would be able to stay there that night.

After leaving Ruben at Hospitality House, I called to get the bus schedule for Colfax to Santa Rosa.  The bus would leave Colfax at 8:00 a.m.  I had to get in touch with Ruben to tell him that I would need to pick him up at 7:00 a.m. I called Hospitality House only to find that he was not there. He had been refused again. This time because he was from out of county and out of state.

Where would he be? On the streets overnight would be dangerous for him. After several tries, I finally contacted him by phone. He would be ready to go by 7:00 in the morning. I worried about him all night and just prayed he would be able to stay sober and be ready to go in the morning.

Sure enough, there stood Ruben in front of Safeway in Brunswick, ready and waiting. He kept saying, “I'm so happy. I'm so happy”. The police had come around early in the morning and were going to move him on until he showed them the card I had given him from Sierra Roots. They recognized that he was getting the ride to Colfax and left him alone. 

But that's not the end of the story. Once on the bus to Santa Rosa, Ruben remembered he was to fax the application the night before. He called the Mission and they said that if they didn't receive the application, they might not be able to receive him. He called me in desperation. (Thank God, he had his phone). I told him he had a lay-over in Oakland and he might be able to fax it from there. When he arrived in Oakland, he had a hard time finding a place to fax it – I prayed, he searched, and finally found a place just in time – faxed it and got back on the bus just in time for the last leg of the journey. 

But that's not the end of the story either. Ruben had been told by someone that if he called ahead of time, there would be someone at the bus stop in Santa Rosa to meet him and take him to the mission. He called and called but couldn't get in touch with anyone. When Ruben got to Santa Rosa, no one was there to meet him and he had no idea where the Mission was. He texted me that he was going under a bridge and spend the night. He was so tired of all the disappointments of the day. Nothing seemed to be turning out for him. I encouraged him not to give up. He had come so far and was so determined. I told him to keep phoning over and over again, and I too would do the same. 

Finally, a young resident answered and told me they don't pick people up – there wasn't anyone there to go get Ruben. This young man was confused -  thinking Ruben was still at the Oakland bus stop. Finally, when he realized that Ruben was at the Santa Rosa bus stop, he was able to call Ruben and tell him how to walk about five blocks to the Mission. Ruben got to the Mission, texted me that they were very kind to him, took him in, gave him a bunk, and a hot meal.

He would never forget Sierra Roots and he was so happy. We can only hope that his rehab goes well and good things come to Rubin in the future.