Back in May and June, when he was working near the county courthouse in downtown Modesto, Tony Montalbo used to keep tabs on Alan Davis, the disabled homeless man who just recently wandered away from the new shelter in the Salvation Army’s Berberian building on 9th and D Streets.
“We’re buds, really,” said Montalbo Saturday. “I used to check on him and bring him some food just to make sure he was okay.”
When Montalbo saw on Facebook that Davis had gone missing, he contacted Frank Ploof and said he would watch for Davis downtown. Ploof asked Montalbo to let him know if and when he found Davis.
Saturday November 30, just after 1:00pm, Montalbo found Davis near the corner of 12th and J Streets, not far from his old courthouse haunts. Montalbo immediately contacted Ploof. Ploof drove downtown, verified Davis was okay and willing to return to the shelter, then confirmed there was still a bed available.
Davis himself seemed a bit bewildered about exactly how things would work out at the shelter, but he did agree that it was very cold and windy outside.
“It’s going to be bad weather all winter,” said Montalbo. “You better get inside where it’s warm.”
Like many veterans of the streets, Davis seemed reluctant to go inside. But he admitted it was cold, and when he was told it would be raining steadily for at least a week, he gave in.
“Well, maybe I’ll go in and give the shelter a try,” he said.
Davis was very vague about where he’d spent his nights—he’d been missing since Wednesday—and may even have been confused about how his stay at the shelter had been arranged. Very often his mumbled communication is difficult or impossible to understand. It could be after so many years on the streets he’s lost some fundamental cognitive capacities.
Frank Ploof, who’s been a volunteer outreach worker for the homeless for over six years and now also helps coordinate services at the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter, has worked with Davis for over two months. There are still lots of unanswered questions about exactly how Davis ended up in Modesto after decades in Sacramento, but Ploof’s major concern all along has been getting Davis placed in an appropriate service facility.
Saturday, the most urgent issue was getting Davis inside, and Ploof arranged that within minutes of verifying Davis was willing to go. He also had a change of clothing ready, knowing from experience Davis would need it.
Whatever reasons Alan Davis ended up in Modesto, he’s been fortunate to have so many good Samaritans watching over him. Tony Montalbo is one among several who routinely brought the wheel-chair bound amputee food and drink and checked on his welfare when he was on the street.
The one thing that should be clear to all concerned is that Davis needs help, even in those cases when he tells people he doesn’t. And Alan Davis is only one of hundreds like him, most just as needy as he is.
That reality was clearly evident Saturday afternoon, as another homeless man slept huddled against the wind directly across the street from Davis and Montalbo. He perched precariously on a motorized scooter, while his dog curled in a ball at his feet.
His solitary slumber in the heart of downtown Modesto was stark evidence that not even the undeniable power of good Samaritans like Tony Montalbo and Frank Ploof will be enough to hold back the rising tide of homelessness. There are just too many people in need.
Not long after Tony Montalbo found him, Alan Davis arrived at the new Berberian shelter, just as the rain came. Downtown, another man and his dog were not so lucky.