Advocate Photo Blog

Hunting for Hope

In Advocate Photo Blog

Ana Ramirez

By Ana Ramirez
April 11, 2017 at 6:44 p.m.

I recently worked with reporterJessica Priest on a mental health series called "Minds That Matter.

For the final installment I followed Alfred Crain Ramirez II for about two months. Alfred has schizoaffective disorder and is homeless but is temporarily able to stay at the Salvation Army. 

Jessica and I first met his mother, Evelyn Ramirez, before meeting Alfred. At the time Alfred had just been released from jail
, and we were trying to track down his whereabouts. Evelyn didn’t know where her son was but allowed us to come back the following day to talk about her son.

Evelyn first gave us a tour of his room and asked us to excuse the mess.

His room had a sofa, no bed, bottles of half used honey, stuffed toys and an assortment of weapons such as knives, machetes and swords. Alfred had an uncle who made props for movie
s. Alfred looked up to his uncle, who recently died, so that’s where his fascination with such items began.

We found a letter on the floor written in purple ink. The letter explained who
would receive hisbelongings if he were to die.

Evelyn told us earlier about how her son had threatened her and her husband (his father) with a rifle and that is why he spent two years in jail
waiting for a trial.

Alfred was acquitted and released.
The jury wrote in the notes that he needed mental help.

After meeting his mother, I didn’t know what to expect when meeting Alfred.

Jessica was able to get his number from his attorney
, and he met us in the library for the first time.

Alfred used a cane when walking through rows of bookshelves. When he was at the computer, he used headphones.

We sat and chatted for awhile. He pulled out a small black notebook
that contained drawings he had done. He liked to draw furries and would draw some of his fellow furry friend’s characters that he knew from online. Furry fans are interested in anthropomorphic animal characters who have human personalities. Ramirez's character is a demon, dragon, wolf and vampire hybrid. 

I met up with Alfred a handful of times and came to know him as polite, articulate and sometimes a childlike individual. He fantasizes and wr
ites about mystical creatures andabout a world with magic so there would be no cancer, and the characters could grow back limbs if they became injured.

Alfred also talked about his relationship with his parents and how he said his parents would constantly insult him about his long hair and how punishments would be more severe than his rewards.

He said his mother would use a whistle and blow it to get his attention to take a dirty plate to the kitchen or to get her a bottle of soda.  I asked him what his best memory was and his response was whichever one wasn’t the worst.

Alfred spent a length of time sleeping on the streets, hanging out at the library until it closed and staying all night drawing at the Whataburger. He eventually landed a spot at the Salvation Army and has a part-time job selling knives.

Sometimes photographing Alfred was tough because I wanted to help him.

When he told me he spent his last dollar at Whataburger on a a jalapano cheddar biscuit so they wouldn’t kick him out for loitering, I wanted to buy him something. But I didn’t because I thought that would be unethical and change the story.

Without proper IDs, he is unable to see a doctor and
get prescription medication, without medication he sees and hears things that aren’t there.

One of the topics Jessica wrote about was mental health courts. The Midland Mental Health Court has defendants meet with a judge every other week. The judge, a probation officer, defense attorney and representative from the local mental health authority meet
to help devise a plan to help the defendant.

This is an important issue that needs to be looked at. If more cities had mental health courts or some sort of assistance,
maybe there would befewer people who fall through the cracks like Alfred and who never get the proper help they need.



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