In every major city across the world, you will find a number of poor people without a home to call their own. Mick Myers was one of these unfortunate individuals, living the solitary life of a hobo around the East Bay of California for 30 years. However, following a candid conversation in 2017, a local cop soon set in motion events which would bring it all back home for Myers. Remarkably, after three decades of tramping the streets, the 67-year-old was set on a new path that would lead him to discover the truth about his past.
Myers knew that had been adopted as a two-year-old infant, growing up in San Leandro, CA. He was once part of his high school’s marching band, but he found that he was not in tune with his adoptive family. Indeed, life at home was very difficult. Myers went without affection from his siblings, despite the best efforts of their loving mother.
Sadly, when his adoptive parents passed away, the rest of the family turned their backs on Myers and cut all ties. Similarly, the California native lost contact with his childhood friends. While he eventually found work as a truck driver, Myers was all alone, and sadly his isolation and general situation continued to worsen in the following years.
Indeed, for some 30 years Myers lived alone on the streets, playing his guitar and panhandling for money. However, everything changed in early November 2017 when he crossed paths with a local police officer near a freeway in Hayward, CA. Deputy Sheriff Jacob Swalwell of Alameda County had seen the vagrant sexagenarian on a number of occasions. Each time the officer would order Myers to stop begging by the side of the busy road.
Nevertheless, the old man would persist in his panhandling. This time, however, Swalwell chose to confront Myers with a citation over the matter. “I had given him so many warnings,” the 33-year-old later told CBS TV station KPIX 5 in March 2018. “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?’”
Swalwell continued, “He was not an alcoholic, he did not use drugs… He was a senior citizen.” Without identification to enable a citation, the pair struck up a conversation. The deputy recalled, “I learned more, that he was disabled and had been homeless for 30 years.” With Swalwell’s curiosity piqued, Myers went on to explain why he did not qualify for any social security.
It turned out Myers was dependent on begging for a very good reason. “I said, ‘I can’t get it [social security] because I can’t even get an ID,’” he told KPIX 5. Following their exchange by the freeway, however, Swalwell decided to take things further. “‘Well, you’ve got somebody to help you now,’” Myers recalled the deputy saying. “‘I’m going to help you get your ID so you can get your social security and get off the street.’”
Nonetheless, this would prove to be no straightforward task for the newfound friends. In his attempt to obtain state-issued legal ID for Myers, Swalwell hit an immediate obstacle. He discovered that the Department of Motor Vehicles – DMV – had wiped any trace of the homeless man, despite Myer’s previous employment as a truck driver. In order to issue him with new identification, the DMV had requirements for Myers to carry out. But these would lead Swalwell and Myers into an unfortunate Catch 22 situation.
Indeed, to satisfy the DMV, Myers was told that he would need to produce his birth certificate and two forms confirming he was a resident of California. The latter task in particular left Swalwell bemused. “How does a homeless person come up with two forms of residency?” he asked KPIX 5. However, in December 2017, a breakthrough was finally made.
Myers received a new official ID after the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and Swalwell’s church pastor had provided the proof of residency requirements. Meanwhile, the deputy himself tracked down Myer’s birth certificate, confirming that he was born at the Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA. In a surprising twist, he found out that Mick was a foreshortening of his middle name, and he was actually born Gordon Michael Oakley. But that was not the end of the surprises…
In fact, the story then took quite an incredible turn. Mark Askins, an experienced private investigator, watched an initial KPIX 5 report about Myers’ ID tribulations that December. Askins took a special interest in the news segment due to his downtime activities. The investigator worked as a volunteer for a charity called Miracle Messages. The not-for-profit’s objective is to reunite homeless people with any long-lost family they may have. As a result, Askins’ ears pricked up when he saw the TV news segment on Myers.
The Miracle Messages man made contact with the homeless man and Swalwell. Armed with the information from the birth certificate, including Myer’s original surname of Oakley and the first name of his mother – Marie – Askins set to work. He started searching through records at the Alameda County Courthouse, hoping to find something on any surviving relations. Before long, the investigator struck gold.
Askins came across a case file relating to a local woman named Marie Pauline Oakley. It turned out that she had been married as a teenager to one Wiley Albert Oakley a sailor from Alameda’s naval air station. The pair wed in Reno but then went to live with the groom’s impoverished family in Tennessee. An unhappy Marie had returned to the East Bay area and had the marriage annulled due to her being below the age of consent when she wed. Marie went to live with her mother, bringing a toddler son and also a swollen belly.
That bump, it transpired, was Myers. Hot on the trail, Askins traced her movements to Humboldt County, CA. Moreover, he discovered that she was still alive at the age of 85 and went by the name of Polly. “I’ve often wondered what might have happened to him,” she said of Myers to KPIX 5. “But at the same time, I just assumed he had a good family, because that’s what I had been told.” As it turned out, there was a very compelling reason she had reluctantly given up her boy for adoption.
In fact, Myers had been critically ill as an infant, and his penniless mom could not afford the life-saving surgery. However, upon the advice of her own mother, Polly gave up the baby boy for adoption, giving him up to a family at their church. Unsurprisingly, she was more than eager to reconnect with her long-lost son when Askins found her telephone number and got in contact.
With a supportive Swalwell and Askins by his side, Myers spoke for the first time ever with his mother by phone in March 2018. And, some two weeks later, the trio flew to Humboldt County to complete a reunion 65 years in the making. The party was met off the plane by Myers’ niece, Shannon, and she drove them to Polly’s place.
Myers finally saw his mom again when he walked through her front door, and received a long, warm hug. The humbled homeless man asked KPIX 5, “Who’d have thought that something like this could have happened to anybody – let alone me!” After their embrace, mother and son looked at old family photos, including some of Myers when he was a toddler.
However, Polly felt distraught and guilty when reflecting on Myers’ existence after his adoption. It was, after all, vastly different to the happy life she had assumed her son would have enjoyed. “I just felt so sad that I’m thinking of all the things that I did with my other kids; all the experiences that they had, things that they’ve done, the advantages that they had,” she explained to the KPIX 5 cameras. “And I felt so sad when he told me how he had been treated. Not physically abused, but basically emotionally abused because he was not accepted.”
After three decades alone, Myers finally found a family who were more than happy to accept him. It turned out that Polly had married three times and, including Myers’ original brother, had children, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren. And while this first reunion was soon over, Myers’ mother nevertheless offered him a place to stay in her house.
Myers now receives health coverage and has applied for social security, thanks to the commendable efforts of Swalwell. In fact, when the deputy walked through her door, Polly had stopped Swalwell and asked him to turn around. She then explained, “I want to see where your wings are, because you brought my son home to me.” A short while later, Polly told her long-lost boy, “To have you puts a piece of my heart back, and means the world to me.” Myers himself told KPIX 5, “All this wondering all these years why this happened the way it did… That all seems to have disappeared now.” Thanks to his chance encounter with a compassionate cop, hopefully Myers’ wandering and wondering days are over.