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Determination Results in a Long-Lost Family Connection

Most people would not be aware that Gjwan’s lack of emotional expressiveness, along with his monotone voice and diminished facial expressions, are associated with a common symptom of schizophrenia, known as ‘flat affect.’  Individuals who experience this can appear unresponsive to the world around them, when it’s really something they can’t control. 

When Kelly Palmer, GCB’s Wellness Center Supervisor, met Gjwan, all she knew of him was that he was helpful, cooperative and one of the most agreeable individuals she has met at the Kemper House, a GCB transitional housing program for people afflicted with a mental illness and working on improving their independent living skills.  

Having been recently released after a three-year stay at a psychiatric hospital, very little was known about Gjwan’s past.  All they knew that was that when he had been found homeless and showing signs of mental illness, he would offer limited information.  When asked if he had contact with family, he simply said, ‘no.’

Eventually, authorities learned that Gjwan had taken a Greyhound from Detroit to Cincinnati, where his wallet and identification were stolen.  Off his medication, Gjwan ended up in the hospital where he stabilized. Unable to initiate a conversation or expound on questions asked of him, no one was aware that Gjwan had a large extended family who for years had been looking for him.

Kelly was determined to dig a little deeper, once she got to know him and he built trust in her.  “I would ask him about names of family, and whatever info he was willing to provide, I took to social media.”  Finally, Kelly was able to confirm, via photos on Facebook, family members who were familiar to Gjwan. “I sent a message request to an aunt, saying only that I had come in contact with a relative in Cincinnati, and he was interested in hearing from her,” she said.

That message soon resulted in a phone call. “The greatest reward,“ Kelly says, “was seeing for the first time, Gjwan’s whole face really light up and smile.”  The family had almost given up on ever finding him alive and well.  

Gjwan is scheduled to move into a new family care home in the area soon; the hope is that with the appropriate service and medical coordination, he can someday move back to Detroit to live near family, cared for and safely monitored.   

“My belief,” says Gjwan, “is that all things work together for the good.”