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Dad reunited with homeless son: 'Don't give up on them'

Created: 04/20/2014 10:11 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Spring is a time of re-birth and new beginnings, and for one family, this season is a bittersweet new journey of discovery.

Last week, KOB reported the story of 27-year-old homeless man Brandon Walch. He was discovered homeless and alone by an APD officer on April 12.

Officer Jim Edison found Brandon's family thousands of miles away in Ohio.

On Sunday, there is good news. Brandon has been reunited with his family.

But now, they face a new struggle.

The Walch family wants New Mexicans to understand how difficult it can be to know what it looks like to have a family member struggling with possible mental illness.

They also want folks in the same situation to know there is hope.

When APD officer Edison first called Brandon's dad Jim Walch on April 12, Walch raced to Albuquerque to reunite with the prodigal son who had been missing for a year and a half. Edison had taken Brandon to Albuquerque homeless shelter Joy Junction.

Because of some miscommunication, Brandon had already left the shelter, and Walch went back to Ohio without his son.

That is when APD and Walch asked KOB for help.

Two days after the KOB story aired, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's office found Brandon camping in the Bosque. Walch came back to Albuquerque, and deputies took him to his son.

Officer Edison came too.

He captured the emotional reunion on his lapel camera.

"It's your brother and it's your dad," Officer Edison says on the tape from April 17.

Jim Walch spoke to KOB about an hour before that reunion in the Bosque.

"I think he'd just gotten to that point of desperation," said Walch.

Walch spoke candidly about the prodigal son who had always struggled, but never seemed like he was in real trouble. 

"He was changing a little bit over the years, having trouble making friends and such," said Walch.

Brandon saw a counselor when he was younger -- things improved a bit -- but one day, he just left home.

His parents have been looking for him until the tearful reunion on April 17. 

"I think he's just at the end of his road, and just doesn't know what to do at this point," said Walch.

Walch knows other parents are in his shoes -- discovering little problems may be part of something bigger, and struggling to understand how quickly a child can change.

Above all, he says; just be there for your loved ones.

"In a lot of cases there's nobody there for these people that want them anymore," he said.

Walch says because his family never gave up on Brandon, he is now getting the help he needs.

He tells KOB Brandon will live at home in Ohio and see a counselor to figure out what's really going on.

He wants anyone in the same situation to know how important it is to work with police and other authorities on a case like this. In Brandon's situation, it made all the difference.

Many times, says Walch, police are limited in what they can and cannot do to help an adult who is not doing anything wrong. But with parental involvement, it can sometimes be easier to get someone help.

There are places you can call if you or your loved ones are faced with a mental health issue beyond your control.

The state-wide New Mexico Crisis Line is available around the clock to provide in-the-moment, over-the-phone counseling, and to connect callers with other resources in their area.

The hotline can be reached at 1-855-622-7474.

More information on the hotline is available online, here: http://www.nmcrisisline.com/

The Agora Crisis Center offers assistance for UNM students and other community members in the Albuquerque area who are in crisis.

The Agora help-line can be reached at (505) 277-3013 or 1-866-HELP-1-NM (1-866-435-7166)

More information about the Agora Crisis Center and an additional list of resources is available online, here: http://www.unm.edu/~agora/


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