Homeless Like Me Helping to Connect Estranged Family

Greg Boisselle, whom I met while reporting the Homeless Like Me project. His cousin, top right, is looking for him on the internet.

The best thing about being a digital journalist on the homelessness beat is that the viral nature of the internet can reconnect people with estranged family members who might be living on the streets. Here’s hoping such is the case with Greg Boisselle, whom I met while reporting the Homeless Like Me project.

Boisselle told me about being addicted to drugs and alcohol when I introduced myself to him outside of Crossroads early Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. He agreed to talk about this sensitive subject on video.

I thought I was telling Rhode Island a story about the struggles some people face while living on the streets. It turns out I also told someone a story about a long-lost family member.

Profile pic from the YouTube account of the person who is looking for her estranged cousin Greg Boisselle.

A young girl from San Marcos, Texas left this comment on the YouTube page last night:

I am Greg’s cousin and haven’t seen or heard from him in years. I am both saddened and relieved to see this video. I truly hope that he can stay on the path of sobriety this time. Greg lived with my parents and me for a while after this accident while he was recovering. Greg, if you ever read this, know that I haven’t forgotten you and I am truly hoping you find health and happiness.

Imagine, if you can, what it must be like for this young girl to wake up on a rainy morning like this one and wonder where in the world her cousin may have slept last night.

Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon sentiment to come across when you tell street people’s stories on the web. The last time I got a comment like this was in September, about a homeless man I wrote about in January.

Merrick LeBlanc

I met Merrick LeBlanc on my cross-country Occutour project in an all-night cafe in Tuscon, Arizona – you should read the post, it’s a pretty entertaining one.

We talked just long enough to trade a few jokes, and for him to tell me he spent 12 years in jail for murder.

Months later, I got this comment on my site:

Hey this is Merrick LeBlanc Family members! We are trying to find him because we havent seen nor heard from him in a while. We have a family emergency to tell him about thats really important. Could u please ask him to give his sister in law Anna LeBlanc a call at 2819313768. His niece Tracy LeBlanc really wants to see him. We really miss him and love him.

I called the number and told Tracy I hardly knew her uncle at all, and no one in Tucson. I wanted to help, but couldn’t do much.

Fortunately, that isn’t the case this time. I’m going to try to track down Boisselle to let him know his cousin is looking for him. If you know him, ask him to send me an email to editor<at>rifuture<dot>org.

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Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

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