PHOENIX — Where do you turn when you are told to go home, but have no home to return to?
Shawn Ryan is homeless. Shawn has called the streets of Ahwatukee home for more than a decade. However, his personality has caused a following to grow around him.
On Facebook, "Friends of Shawn" has more than 16,000 followers.
“Shawn is a child at heart,” Nicole Terrell said, “He’s probably one of the sweetest, most loving, caring souls.”
Nicole is part of a collection of people who help keep track of Shawn. “He changed my life for the better. I'm a better person because I know Shawn.”
Back in February, Shawn went to the hospital after being beaten up. While there, doctors found a brain tumor during the exam.
“He would have died if they did not remove this,” Nicole said.
Although the procedure was successful, Nicole said doctors told Shawn he needed chemotherapy to have a chance to live.
“He doesn’t even understand what chemo is,” Nicole said.
Nicole said Shawn suffers from mental illness. To help recover, Shawn went to a rehab center. However, after just five days, Nicole said Shawn was discharged.
“I'm heartbroken over the system. I'm heartbroken that someone could let someone in capacity walk out a front door,” Nicole said.
“It’s more common than anyone would like to see,” Marty Hames, a spokesperson with Circle the City said.
Hames said when hospitals and rehab centers fill up, they discharge patients they believe are well enough to go home. However, that doesn't help those patients without a home to return to.
"Where do you turn?” Hames said. "Sadly, it's far too typical."
Hames said one option for those in need is Circle the City. The organization served 8,000 homeless people last year. They also have two respite centers that can provide food, shelter, and assistance to those like Shawn, who are both homeless and have acute health issues.
The organization said it is working to get Shawn into one of its facilities.
Nicole is frustrated it has come to this. That a person mentally and physically ill was put back on the streets.
“Knowing he’s terminally ill. Knowing he has no place to go. Knowing he doesn’t have a watch. Shawn, how are you going to get to chemo?" Nicole said.
Shawn missed his Tuesday chemotherapy appointment. Nicole said the system is failing, letting people like Shawn fall through the cracks.
If you, a loved one, or someone you know needs housing help, here are some resources:
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