Pals from Childhood Locate and Help Long-Lost Friend, 66, Who Was Homeless for 2 Decades
"I don't know if I'd really gotten through it without my friends. Make friends now," said Coy Featherston
Some friendships are special enough to last a lifetime, and one man’s childhood pals proved just that when they came to his aid after hearing about his struggles with homelessness.
After being homeless for more than two decades, 66-year-old Coy Featherston’s luck began to change thanks to a newspaper article published in the Austin American-Statesman in September. The article — which detailed a battle over dueling laws around a homeless camping ban in certain areas of the city — featured a picture of Featherston pushing a shopping cart filled with hundreds of items in the rain.
When the article was published, Leea Mechling, who knew Featherston in middle school, heard from a friend that their old classmate was living on the streets.
“I got online and found [the article] and it was [Coy],” Mechling told KVUE. “I saw my friend and I just couldn’t leave him out there.”
Mechling, compelled to help the pal she hadn’t seen in years, drove around the area for days until she finally found him.
“He was right there in front of the church feeding the pigeons,” she told the station.
“I was beginning to lose hope,” Featherston told CBS News.
Featherston was once a talented football player who was voted “Best All-Around Boy,” in grade school, Mechling recalled to CBS.
Featherston told KVUE that he worked as a concert lighting director for musician Frank Zappa after leaving the University of Texas in the 1970s. Years later a series of events and increasing mental health issues left Featherston struggling to find stability in the 1990s.
“It’s no fun on the streets,” he told the station. “I wouldn’t want anyone to do this ever.”
“I was ready for the worst,” he added.
According to a December 2018 Department of Housing and Urban Development report, there are roughly 553,000 people who are homeless in the United States. About 65 percent of them are able to stay in shelters or transitional housing programs, but 35- percent either live on the streets, in abandoned buildings or “in other places not suitable for human habitation.”
The National Alliance to End Homelessness lists many reasons that someone may end up homeless, such as racial disparities, income, housing affordability and mental illness. Some people may become homeless after escaping a violent relationship, they reported.
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After finding her friend, Mechling took Featherston into her home and called up their old pals, who all jumped at the chance to help him in his time of need.
“The fact that he was in dire straits, really affected us,” friend Don Vanderburg told KVUE. “It’s like finding your brother on the street. You would bring them home and help them.”
Featherston has been living with Vanderburg for a few weeks, and the group of friends have helped him apply for Social Security benefits and receive medical treatment. One friend, J.D. Allen, even put Featherston on his cell phone plan.
“Whatever it takes, we’re going to turn him around,” friend Pat Judd told CBS.
Though it all came together by chance, Featherston is grateful to have his friends back in his life.
“I don’t know if I’d really gotten through it without my friends. Make friends now,” he told CBS.
“You may need them some day,” he added. “You may be glad that you have them — because it can happen to anyone.”
A GoFundMe for Featherston was set up by Allen and has so far raised more than $18,000, far surpassing its $2,000 goal.