Family finds lost son via Georgetown Ministry and The Georgetown Dish

Photo by Katie Manning
Steven Aroche revisits his son's facebook profile
Steven Aroche revisits his son's facebook profile

Steven Aroche walked into the Georgetown Ministry Center around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday. He expected to eat lunch and surf the web; his regular routine for the past eight years of being homeless.  Aroche, 41, was "shocked," to learn that his sister Joanne Rodriguez, whom he hadn't spoken to in eight years, found him.

Since her brother's disappearance, Rodriguez scoured the internet, prisons and hospitals for a hint of his whereabouts. She said that their family in Puerto Rico, including Aroche's son, "honestly thought he (Aroche) was not alive." Their 79-year-old father would "plead to me to please find him before he passed away," she said.

Frustrated by her lack of progress and determined to fulfill her father's dying wish, Rodriguez cast a wider net using Facebook and an email chain.

Just two days later, a reply popped up in her inbox. A Facebook friend forwarded Rodriguez a link to a video from The Georgetown Dish after reading about her search. Rodriguez clicked.

"Bam, there he was: my little brother Steven. I totally lost it. To see that he is alive, to see him speaking, it's just beyond words," she wrote in an email full of capital letters and explanation points.

"My husband had to hold me up. My knees gave in, and I was just screaming and crying of an immense feeling of relief and joy. I just could not believe it." Her family celebrated as if it were the "Fourth of July or News Years," she said.

But Aroche wasn't as eager to jump into unfamiliar waters. He - like many others coming to the center for food, counseling and shelter- suffers from mental health issues according to executive director Gunther Stern.

Aroche overcame his initial hesitation because he wanted to reconnect with his 16-year-old son Steven Andrew according to Nathan Clark, a social worker at the center.

Their name is one of many things Aroche and his son have in common. Both attended Pablo Casals school in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. They speak fluently in Spanish and English and share physical attributes like their Cupid's bow mouth. 

Aroche fumbled through his new Facebook profile for a minute before finding Steven Andrew's name in his "friends" list. Steven tapped his son's profile picture with his right hand wrapped with a faded yellow-green canvas bracelet. "That's his girlfriend there," he said staring the picture of his stylish son leaning a cheek against a brunette teenager in a white-strapless dress.  A smile flickered across Aroche's recently shaven face when he said, "He's six two."

Facebook profile of Steven Andrews Aroche and his girlfriend (Photo by: ) Facebook profile of Steven Andrews Aroche and his girlfriend

Aroche said that he used to play baseball with his son 8-years-ago. Now, Steven Andrew balances school and work. Aroche said, "I'm proud of him. He's a grown man," and added, "I wish he could see me in a different situation."

Steven Andrew wrote in message to his father:

"Hey Dad. Wow, long time.  I love you very much, and I'm glad to see and know about you. Hope to see you soon and send you an inbox. Love you."

Aroche said, "Those were the words I didn't expect. He's dying to see me. That made me say everything is going to be alright."

Alcohol, drugs, and mental illness consumed the past eight years of Aroche's life according to his sister. Aroche said that he avoided his family out of concern for their safety.

Aroche frequently mentioned his belief that the U.S. government and "criminals" forced him to be homeless. He said it was necessary to cut off contact to protect his family.

Clark explained, "I think a lot of people are orphaned by their own delusion."

Even if a homeless person's family knows how to find him or her,  mental illness sometimes keeps them apart according to Clark. 

"There's a lot of family that call and cry,  so it's not a first. That is not to say this ends happily, but it's a beginning for at least some relation," said Clark. 

The first time Rodriguez and Aroche spoke on the phone was one of his "not so good days," she said. "I was so devastated, but happy to know he was well. I told him I loved him and missed him dearly, and I told him I would call him again the next day."

Aroche said that he would consider flying to Puerto Rico to see his son and family, but he isn't able to financially.  His sister is struggling to come up with enough money to buy a flight to the District. She said, "My dad and I would love to see him and have the reunion we have been waiting to have for the past years."

To wrap up her email, Rodriguez wrote, "I thank you so much for your article and news report. Because of you, we have found him. I can't stop the tears, but at least this time, they are tears of happiness."

 

 

0 Comments For This Article

Pbm

Great reporting it is wonderful to see good investigative reporting lead to such a positive outcome. Keep it up Katie Manning

Katherine

What a wonderful story. As someone who works with many of the homeless people from the Georgetown Ministry, Steve is a very familiar face. Always upbeat, friendly. I had no idea he had this family history. I'm so glad his family now knows where he is and can be a part of his life. Perhaps he'll get better.

Imaris

Praise God for the Facebook family, the email chain, The Georgetown Dish, the Georgetown Ministry Center, and Katie Manning's article that reconnected Joanne with Steven. A truly joyous moment.

Steven, I don't know if you still remember me from La Segunda in the Bronx, but you will always be "Stevie" for me :) Here's hoping that one day soon you'll be able to embrace and be embraced by your loved ones. Lots of love.

Alix Sundquist

What a wonderful, heart warming story! Great job, Georgetown Dish, keep it up!

steven aroche

i am greatfull and thanckfull for town dish and spesily my sweet hart katy manning for the folowing report but im not proud of the mental health disability that has ruind my life which has alot to do whith the thive and investigatin of my life as well of solving wash dc proboml that the acount of the thevi and the lies and un solusion for the unconstution of and for the resolution of human rithgs tha has no rithg for us which has neglatlee efeactead for menny menny unresolution for our secreat servis ass well secreat intelegence is not to be given to mental health or drugs ext thats where my our money has bin going whith the touchering intentionly incarceration off whorcking fathers like our selves some ways of bringing good resolutions for victoms like menny of us and solving a matter is not mentionig drugs or mental health becouse i dont whant our secrat intelegence nor our entrance to be more fuck up and my usa as well ass district to be weeker than the both lies that wioll not fix our and solve our secreat intelegence in wash dc va md cia fbi ss miltary and employees here to solve and resolut a resolution that i am greatfully bilding for usa and distrik of colombia is not to have more probloms for a chenge that we have bin bildinh im 85% of the new advancement on or nation are state govement intenational and cominitys all aroud the world know its time to chenge the secreat intelegence of our people so in and it will not be obtaind oru to known the new contruction for our freedom our libity and not for all our county so plese fix my life whith out mentioning drugs our mentalhealth befoer you and i get fuck and we we and our new intel will giving our secreat intelegence to the loest mother fuckers that has bin fucking our biutyfull boodys even more helth and power to streanthing our life the advancement looks good but not our people no disabilyty chenge nore drug change trade. fix it for the sack of my love ons after somuch paine and sufering and sorow and work ps the origanal ps thnks steven. like i confes to counsol the truth i whork they dont.

Steven Aroche

I appreciate the dish for the news and am very greatful for this. However, just to clarify the conditions that I have been in the last 10 years of homeless is not because of drugs or alcohol and never the less mental health issues. But a bunch of thieves have been stealing my work i want people to understand that.
I have done so much work here in DC, as well as where you live and where I have been staying; but there have drug users and people with severe mental health issues around me because I have no where to stay and I'm a victum of scammers and lazy thieves. There are no human rights and no settlements regarding this matter.
Thanks again,
Steven Aroche