Finding Roots Again: Homeless Man Reunites With Family

In a world constantly plagued with heartache and struggle, it’s nice to see a story ending on a positive note. A homeless man residing in Los Angeles was finally reunited with his family after 20 years of being unhoused and overcoming a series of personal struggles. This amazing story of a young couple helping a total stranger find safety and solitude will warm your heart.

A homeless man / Randi Emmans and Pedro Reid / Emmans, John Suazo and Reid along with his family members / Jessica Doing and Kevin Adler
Source: Getty Images

Anyone who has dealt with hardship in their life can likely relate to Pedro Reid’s story, which is unique while simultaneously (and unfortunately) too common in the modern world. In 2021, Los Angeles, the city Reid was living in, had reported a record high in the rising rate of homelessness, despite a record number of people being rehoused in the last year. While numbers and statistics can be daunting, people like this couple, Randi Emmans and John Suazo, have proven that there are indeed still good people who want to use their resources and public reach for some good.

Listening to Surroundings

Randi Emmans had no clue she would be changing someone’s life when she went out to walk her dog one morning. She overheard a man engaging in a conversation with himself nearby, and while she easily could have chosen to ignore it and move on, she decided to listen more closely.

Randi Emmans is taking a selfie with her dog.
Source: Instagram / @randiemmansbailyn

That summer 2020 morning was not unlike others until that point, but when Emmans kept listening, her heart broke ever so slowly. She stopped to hear more, hearing Pedro Reid talk about how he’s educated, and that people don’t bother to look past his homeless status. She also learned from this that he did not have anyone to call.

Extending a Helping Hand

Emmans, 33, was moved by what she had heard and grew curious. She went inside to grab her boyfriend, 34-year old John Suazo, and the couple struck up a conversation with the man. They asked him about himself and his previous experiences, which had shocked the man himself. Reid said he was happy to talk, since no one had ever asked before.

John Suazo with his arm around Randi Emmans as they pose for a photo.
Source: Instagram / @randiemmansbailyn

The couple said that he was well spoken and impressive. They felt that his story warranted a response and extra effort on their part. For total strangers to be so moved as to help a complete stranger, his story must have been significant enough to have strangers mobilize their community for further efforts.

Battles With Substance Issues

Reid had a similar path to others also facing homelessness. Reid left his family roots back home in Charleston, South Carolina, and headed west to Los Angeles in 1999. He moved there to live with an aunt, though that did not last as long as he might have liked.

A homeless person is sitting on a bench at night.
Photo by Chris McLoughlin/Getty Images

Battles with substance abuse and addiction had led Reid to become homeless. He would soon spend time living on the streets and serving jail time for petty thefts he had committed to try and survive. Though jailtime gave him a roof over his head, that was not the reality that he wanted and knew he wanted to do more with his life and somehow get through it.

More Than a Statistic

Reid and his battle with homelessness unfortunately is all too common. According to reports from YaleGlobal, data shows that roughly two percent of the world’s population experiences homelessness. Simultaneously, another twenty percent lacks adequate housing. That means that around 1.6 billion people across the world lack the resources they need for one reason or another. An additional 1.5 billion people are living in makeshift housing, slums, or are constantly in transition.

A homeless man is sleeping under covers on the street beside his cart.
Photo by Alex Wichman/Getty Images

Los Angeles, where Reid was experiencing homelessness, but there are 66,436 individuals in the county experiencing the same situation. More than 40,000 of them reside within Los Angeles city limits. ABC 7 News LA confirmed that though the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is placing more individuals into housing than ever before, they cannot keep up with the rate of rising homelessness in the area.

Stranger Saviors

The kind and caring gestures of the helping couple had given Reid hope for the first time in ages. Two decades of living on the streets had taken a toll on him and he had little hope that his situation might change. He was moved by the couple seeking him out to make his situation better in some way.

John Suazo is leaving a backpack in front of a homeless person's tent.
Source: Instagram / @randiemmansbailyn

The couple’s efforts will never be forgotten by their community, nor the man himself. They saw him as more than just a homeless man on the street, which completed shifted his mindset and self-esteem. The couple gave him a backpack of essential supplies like food, water, and hygienic supplies, left over from a charity Emmans runs, providing essentials for the homeless during the holidays.

Comforting Connections

Through the years of struggling to get by, Reid had thought about finding his estranged family members, though he did not have the resources nor any idea of where to start. He was eager to allow Emmans and Suazo to help him because he felt a lack of judgement from them, which made him feel comfortable.

Emmans posing for a photo with Reid.
Source: Instagram / @randiemmansbailyn

Reid had not seen his family since leaving Charleston in 1999. He was raised by a single mother and his grandmother, living in his grandmother’s house. He had scarcely been in touch with his family, aside from some calls and letters here and there during his time behind bars.

Falling into Patterns

Reid fell into incarceration on and off through the years. “It was always for petty crimes, usually shoplifting to support my habits, food and things of that nature,” he told the Washington Post. “That cycle continued for years, and whenever I got released, I was right back on the streets.”

Police shining lights on handcuffed African man sitting on a curb.
Photo by Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

According to the American Action Forum, the US currently incarcerates 2.2 million people, with nearly half of them being non-violent drug offenders, accused individuals who were being held and were unable to afford to post bail, and some who have been arrested for owing debts/had not paid fines. Unfortunately, there are too many ways that homelessness can have someone arrested, such as laws related to sleeping in public. Some cities have even gone as far as outlawing sharing food with a homeless person.

Also Known As: Franklin Mitchell

We never know how important a form of identification is until we need it most. When Reid first arrived in Los Angeles, he didn’t have an identification card. During an altercation, he had told officers his name was Franklin Mitchell, which became his assumed name for years, making it hard for his family to reach him.

A beggar with his cart seated at the street eating a sandwich.
Photo by Ruben Earth/Getty Images

Proper identification is also essential for gaining employment. Without an ID or an address, employers across the nation would be hesitant, or even unable, to offer a job to someone in this situation. This proved to be an extra roadblock in a life already filled with struggle. This was a big disadvantage.

Reading Kept a Smile on His Face

Unemployment left him with fewer options to pass time. He spent every day reading the newspaper, if he could get his hands on it. He believed that continuously reading helped him keep his strong articulation skills. Without being able to scrounge up a newspaper here and there, be may have been in a different situation.

A homeless man is sitting on the side of the road with his two dogs reading a newspaper.
Photo by photography by Bert.Design/Getty Images

Studies show correlations between reading and overall happiness. The idea that books can improve happiness dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Today, “bibliotherapy” which is essentially reading to improve your mood, takes many forms. This could very well be part of what has helped Reid keep his head up through the years.

Lost Contact, Found Again

Modern technology and social media have made it easier than ever to keep in touch with loved ones and reconnect with people over the years. Reid did not have a phone or any possessions, let alone any knowledge of where his family members were. He did not know where to begin, but luckily remembered some names to look for.

A homeless person is sleeping at the entrance of an abandoned building.
Photo by vander/Getty Images

“I lost all contact with them, too,” Reid told the Washington Post. “I didn’t know where anybody was, and I had no idea that anyone was looking for me. I was all alone.” He was able to give the couple a few names and his grandmother’s address, though he was unsure if she was still living there or even still alive.

Making “Miracle” Connections

After lots of internet-sleuthing, the three were able to match Reid’s grandmother’s name with the address he had given. They tried a number of phone calls that didn’t match up, but luckily were able to get in touch with his uncle’s ex-wife. Understanding the importance, his uncle’s former spouse passed the information along and put the two in touch.

Reid is embracing his uncle Pierre Grant when they reunited at last.
Source: Facebook

Pierre Grant, 59, is Reid’s uncle who contacted the couple as soon as his ex-wife contacted him. Grant was able to identify his nephew simply by hearing about the couple’s interactions with the man. Grant told the Post that “for over 20 years, we had been praying and believing that one day we would find him, and the day finally came. This is a miracle.”

Getting the Band Back Together

Reid’s uncle booked the next flight from Charleston to reunite with his nephew. He traveled and met up with Mia Green, Reid’s cousin, who came from Atlanta for the reunion. Reid felt blessed to have family members travel such a long way to see a family member they had not interacted with in years.

An airplane is flying over a highway road at sunset.
Photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

Fortunately, the reunion remained COVID-safe. Suazo and Emmans arranged for a test for Reid to ensure he was not positive with the virus. He tested negative, as did the couple, the uncle traveling from Charleston, and the cousin coming from Atlanta, who came along.

Going Above and Beyond

To say that Emmans and Suazo went above and beyond for Reid is an understatement. The couple set up a GoFundMe page, asking for donations to cover a couple of days at a hotel for Reid to get cleaned up, comfortable, and have a hot meal or two. They surpassed their expectations significantly.

The GoFundMe page started for Reid.
Source: GoFundMe

The couple managed to raise $6,500 in a matter of 72 hours. They were able to pay for a weeklong stay at a hotel for Reid, help him get a cellphone, and some new clothes. He had not stayed in a home, hotel, or even a shelter since 2000, stating that shelters were often worse than the streets.

Keeping Priorities in Line

There was one thing Reid wanted more than anything. More than shelter, he prayed he’d someday have the chance to reconnect with his family members. Not long after moving in with his aunt, he left and started sleeping on the streets – specifically in the notorious Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles. After years of struggling, his reunion dreams came true.

Reid is embracing his cousin in a tearful hug when they finally reunite.
Source: Facebook

Mia Green, Reid’s cousin who joined the reunion from Atlanta, spoke highly of the efforts in her interview with the Washington Post. “Randi and John are godsent people. I don’t even have words for the heart they have to stop and speak to him and then find us.”

A Tearful Reunion

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that reuniting with a family member after years may be a bit overwhelming. To make you choke up even more, listen to what the couple that reunited the family did to take their angel-ness to the next level. Souza and Emmans paid for his family’s expenses for the trip!

Souza and Reid are posing for a photo during the reunion.
Source: Facebook

Emmans and Souza truly extended themselves further than anyone would have expected. They paid for Reid’s uncle and cousin’s flight, rental car, and hotel. Any remaining funds from what they had raised went to the family to try and help him get back on track. Their efforts will live on forever.

First Nights Together

There is so much pressure placed on dates and reunions to be a perfect event. After a tear-filled reunion, characterized with emotions and hugs, the family headed off for a night on the town with each other, catching up and sharing a meal. The group headed out to Hollywood for the evening.

Emmans, Suazo, and Reid are having a meal with his reunited family.
Source: Facebook

After they shared a meal, Reid and his uncle drove back to Charleston the next morning. They returned to his childhood home, where he is now living with his aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, he had learned that he just missed his grandmother. She passed away in 2019, which devastated him.

Similar Beautiful Reunions

Also occurring in August 2020, a homeless man from Arizona was reunited with his family. This was made possible by the hard work of the police department of Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. After seeking help with the department’s crisis intervention team to reconnect with his family, he was finally able to find some stability.

A homeless man excepting a helping hand.
Photo by AleksandarGeorgiev/Getty Images

The individual, who goes by the name Scooter, was helped to secure an identification card and was connected to social services. Even with the pandemic in full swing, the officers did what they could to help a man who had fallen on hard times. We are grateful for kind gestures that change lives for the better!

Lifesaving Similarities

In another incredible story of family reunions, a homeless man who intervened on an attack on a police officer and saved his life, was finally reunited with his family. His family had seen the man, John Burrows, on TV after saving the life of a Washington D.C. police offer who was stabbed in the head after responding to a report of an assault in the area.

John Burrows is sitting with his niece, Kim Duperow, and a police officer after the lifesaving incident.
Source: ABC News

Burrows jumped into action and as a result, appeared on News4 Washington D.C. that night. The D.C. Department of Human Services helped the family locate their family member, get him a place to live, and raise more than $20,000 to help him get back on track to a healthy, safe life.

Maternal Instinct

Pedro Reid was also lucky to reconnect with his mother, Deborah Reid, who lives in Converse, Texas. She had given birth to him when she was 15 years old. The two had not been in touch since 2010. She reminisced on earlier days before he fell into substance abuse habits, recalling his strong academic past.

A young homeless man is sitting alone in a subway tunnel with his hands over his face.
Photo by coldsnowstorm/Getty Images

Things spiraled when he began drinking, which was when every member of her family tried to straighten out his behavior. He was then sent to live with his aunt in California. They hadn’t been in touch since he was in jail in 2010, which is how she knew he wasn’t incarcerated at the time. She would have heard from him. Deborah Reid prayed for her son every night.

Getting Adjusted

Reuniting with long-lost family can be very stressful. Unless it’s a subject matter you’ve personally experienced, it’s hard to truly describe the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with reconnecting with family members after so many years apart. In addition to reconnecting with family members, he is hoping to use his experience to help others.

Reid is giving a thumbs up after receiving his new ID.
Source: Facebook

“I believe I can help a lot of people that are still in the position that I was in,” Reid stated. He wants to use his experiences to show homelessness to show what the experience is truly like. He also wants to further his education, which did not continue after high school.

Meet Randi Emmans

Randi Emmans, our story’s heroine, is 33 years old and living in Los Angeles. She is a voice actress who currently works at Netflix. Her work with Project Backpacks for the Holidays prior to this incident had allowed her to already have supplies available to help him. Talk about luck!

Randi Emmans is delivering backpacks to the homeless in a Santa hat for the holidays.
Source: Instagram / @randiemmansbailyn

Randi is known for being the good Samaritan who took a moment to listen to Pedro’s thoughts. She could have easily stopped listening to the story but chose to do whatever she could to help this stranger who she felt just needed someone to take a moment to check in on him.

Meet John Suazo

The other hero in this story also works in the entertainment industry, much like his girlfriend. He began acting at the age of 10 and quickly became known for his consistent work in educational programming. This may not be educational TV itself in this story, but it surely is educational!

Suazo is giving a homeless woman a backpack filled with supplies.
Source: Facebook

Suazo might have felt his need to serve come back in full force with this event. He left the acting scene for a spell to serve in the US Military for nearly a decade after high school. Whether it was passion for service or goodness in his heart, his kindness will never be forgotten.

Reconnecting Those Who Need It Most

Organizations across the country are specific in their mission to reunite those living on the streets with their family members, searching for a better tomorrow. A specific organization in Northern California’s Bay Area helps this cause and has celebrated more than 300 reunions. Kevin Adler, the founder and director of Miracle Messages was inspired by the homeless of her community.

A photo of Kevin Adler.
Source: Pinterest

The founder even had experienced homelessness in his family. He had an uncle who was homeless and frequently absent from family gatherings. He was inspired by his love for his uncle to stop homeless individuals on the street and ask if they had family. He knew they had a path to something truly great after facilitating a reunion.

Helping Hands

Many people in situations like Pedro Reid’s could benefit from the work of organizations like Miracle Messages and others that help homeless individuals get off the streets and back to their loved ones. The organization’s founder Kevin Adler saw the power of healing and quit his other commitments to dedicate his life to facilitating these incredible reunions.

Miracle Messages’ Executive Director Jessica Donig, and Kevin Adler in company T-shirts.
Source: Reddit

As of last year, the network with over 1,000 “miracle messengers” has worked tirelessly to help stories like Reid’s become a reality for others. Fueled by a team of detectives, trained volunteers, and private investigators, this organization takes bringing people back together seriously. These reunions were not limited to the continental United States, showing it is a small world after all!

One Size Does Not Fit All

It’s hard for some people to wrap their head around the fact that there are some homeless individuals who do not want to be contacted or reconnect with their families. However, it is important for people like Reid to know that if they believe there is someone in the world they can reconnect with, that there are people who want to make that dream a reality.

Jessica Doing and her team out on the streets helping people.
Source: Facebook

Organizations like Miracle Messages understand that a reunion between family members does not guarantee lifelong happiness and bliss. They recognize the underlying trauma and issues in the lives of those they assist. Reconnecting goes both ways, and while we’d like to believe everyone has a positive experience, that isn’t always a reality.

From BART to Mother’s Arms

An episode of A More Perfect Union, a segment on CBS This Morning, focused on a homeless man who was offered a fresh start. After a police officer learned that a homeless senior citizen had no family aside from his adopted mother, he felt a need to step in. He helped Nick, our person of interest, get registered with Medicaid and receiving social security benefits.

Jacob Swalwell is standing beside Nick as he holds up his new ID card.
Source: Twitter

Officer Jacob Swalwell used every resource possible to help Nick get an identification card as well as connect him with private investigators and organizations that could help him find his birth mother. After 65 years, the mother-son relationship would be resurrected and built from scratch again. He regained his family and a healthy life path.

As Cities Grow, So Does Homelessness

Yale University conducted a study showing the correlation between the growth of cities and the housing issues that come along with it. As an enduring problem that spans across the world, finding people living on the streets from Cairo to Miami is an unfortunate reality. Based on national reports, no less than 150 million people are homeless worldwide.

A homeless tent city on the side of the road.
Photo by jhillphotography/Getty Images

Homelessness is also impacted heavily by natural disasters and conflict across the globe. According to this YaleGlobal study, “Haiti, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria, have large numbers of internally displaced persons, many living in makeshift temporary housing, shantytowns or government shelters.” Many people living on the streets lack adequate access to the resources they need to take care of their mental and physical health, turning to the streets as opposed to rehabilitation centers or psychiatric units.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Research shows that homelessness is furthered through processes like gentrification and privatization of civic services. When affordable housing is not available and you’re already struggling with an arguably abysmal minimum wage, services that are designed to “help” the less fortunate actually continue to harm them.

A below street-level sidewalk is populated by homeless individuals seeking shelter.
Photo by David Schalliol/Getty Images

Even if Pedro Reid was able to get a job during his struggles, there is a chance he may have remained in a similar situation. A 2017 study showed that even working a 40-hour week on the minimum wage at the time, $7.25, there was not a single place in the United States where someone could afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent. The study showed that “affording a one-bedroom apartment at the average fair market rate without paying more than 30 percent of one/s income, a person must earn at least $16.35 an hour.” That is both upsetting and insane.

Happy Endings, New Beginnings

Pedro Reid was lucky to encounter Emmans and Suazo, without whom he might still be seeking out his family and experiencing homelessness. He was graced by the goodness of people who cared about more than simply themselves, and he wants to honor them as he improves his life moving forward.

A woman is giving money to a homeless man living on the street.
Photo by South_agency/Getty Images

His family was ecstatic to find out that not only was Reid alive, but that he had found them. He is now adjusting to his new life and is completely overjoyed to find himself with a new, clean slate. Hopefully he has managed to grow from these troubling times and will help others overcome their difficult times as well.