I went to visit Robert in the County Jail today. I needed to get Ministerial rights to visit outside the normal visitation hours. After I was set to go by the jail’s chaplain…I went in to visit Robert.
Robert went missing the same night I finished working my shift at the Vegetable Plant. He was gone for 7 days. We found his backpack by the barn…which he never leaves alone…so we were concerned for his safety when he did not return that next day. On day seven…I called the “missing persons” hotline and they informed me he had been arrested for trespassing.
I did not know how easy it was to get that information from the police. Who knew?!
I was relieved to hear this news. It meant that Robert was okay and safe…and sober!
I needed to go visit him. For many nights of my journey, Robert was kind enough to allow me to stay with him…so I definitely owed him a visit and a good hello.
To be honest, I have never been on a pastoral jail visit. I have visited shut ins, children and adults in hospitals, funeral homes, and schools as a pastor…but never a jail.
Jail can be an intimidating place to visit. There are multiple security check points, the absence of public parking (since it is located in a bad part of town), and the lack of windows is hard enough to absorb…not including the sight of the prisoners.
It was kind of like what you see in the movies. After the security approved my ID…I was sent to booth #6 where Robert would meet with me on the other side of the window. A circular hole was cut in the middle and screened off so 2 people could speak to each other easily.
After waiting there for 5 minutes or so…I saw Robert’s head peek through the opposite door.
He smiled bigger than I have ever seen him smile…and he said, “John!”
I have gone by John a lot during this lenten journey. John is my first name, and the name that is printed on my outdoor shelter badge. Gavin is my middle name.
Robert sat down in the booth, and we both leaned toward the window so we could talk to each other better.
Robert is 52 and homeless.
I am 30 and not homeless…but I now consider him one of my best friends in San Antonio. He is one of the few people who actually knows that I am on a Lenten fast.
I feel like I know him better than some of my friends that I have known for years….Something about living together on the streets bonds people together.
He told me about the arrest and how he was only walking on the sidewalk…when he interrupted a downtown social party at a nearby club. They did not like him being there so they called the cops. A scene broke out, and the cops arrested him for trespassing.
Now, I don’t know what really took place…but I bet there is more than just his side of the story.
However, he seemed to be telling some truth.
In my 40 days, I have witnessed businesses overreact when it comes to managing homeless people on the streets. It’s a difficult thing to manage as a business owner when working near downtown.
I don’t always blame them.
Robert was in the detox program at the jail, and he will be there until they release him for timed served. 1-2 weeks at best. 1 month at worst.
He was worried about his things in his barn. I told him not to worry about his stuff. A few days ago, I had gone to get most of it: his backpack, jacket, cowboy hat, boots, etc. (You should have seen me carry all that stuff back to the front porch of my house…it was a funny sight.) I really looked like a bum walking down the street.
After 20 minutes, he had to go to dinner.
I told him to stay safe…and that we could not wait to see him when he gets out. Then he put his hand on the glass. So did I.
It was good to see him.
I love that guy to death.
It was good to see Robert’s face not worn down by the alcohol. He is such a sweet and gentle man when sober…even slightly sober.
His eyes were happy.
So was I.