Emmans went and got her boyfriend, John Suazo, 34. Curious about the man, they struck up a conversation with him and asked him about his life.
The man, Pedro Reid, said he was happy to talk. No stranger had ever asked.
The couple said they were awed by his way with words.
“He was so impressive,” said Suazo, who is an actor. “The whole conversation really touched us.”
Reid had left his family home in Charleston, S.C., and moved to L.A. in 1999 to live with an aunt. A year later, beset by drug and alcohol addictions, Reid found himself homeless.
Reid, 54, cast about for years, unable to find his footing or even a home.
After more than two decades of living on the streets of L.A., Reid had little hope that his life would ever change.
But he said, “The thought of reuniting with my family was always on my mind.”
Reid said he felt comfortable talking to the couple because they didn’t judge him and, to his surprise, were eager to get to know him.
“John and Randi saw me as more than what everyone else saw me as — just a homeless person living on the streets,” Reid said. “They believed in me, despite the situation they found me in.”
The couple gave him a backpack filled with food, water and other daily essentials that Emmans had left over from a charity she runs providing essentials for the homeless during the holidays.
“But we wanted to do more,” said Emmans, who works at Netflix. She posted a public plea on Facebook, asking for donations to help cover the costs of a night or two at a hotel, so Reid could get cleaned up, have a few hot meals and get some proper rest.
In only 72 hours, the couple raised $6,500 and were able to pay for Reid’s stay at a hotel for one week, get him a cellphone and buy him some new clothes.
“From 2000 until just a few days ago, I never once stayed in a home or a hotel,” said Reid, adding that he didn’t sleep in shelters because “they were worse than the streets.”
Beyond having a roof over his head, what Reid wanted more than anything was to locate his family. Emmans and Suazo said they would help.
Reid hadn’t seen his family since leaving Charleston, where he was born and raised by a single mother and his grandmother, whose house he grew up in.
But trouble followed Reid when he traveled out west, and not long after moving in with his aunt, “I started sleeping on the streets of the Skid Row area in downtown L.A.”
Reid was in and out of jail, from where he’d occasionally call home and send letters to his grandmother’s house.
“It was always for petty crimes, usually shoplifting to support my habits, food and things of that nature,” he said. “That cycle continued for years, and whenever I got released, I was right back on the streets.”
Reid, who moved to L.A. without an identification card, told officers during an altercation that his name was Franklin Mitchell. From then on, that became his assumed name, making it impossible for his family to locate him.
Without a phone, possessions or knowledge of where any of his family members were, “I lost all contact with them, too,” Reid said. “I didn’t know where anybody was, and I had no idea that anyone was looking for me. I was all alone.”
Plus, without a proper ID card, he said, he couldn’t get a job.
To occupy his time, “I read the newspaper every day if I could get my hands on it,” he said. “Being an avid reader has enabled me to speak articulately.”
To help them locate his family, Reid gave Emmans and Suazo a few names, as well as his grandmother’s address, not knowing whether she was still living there — or whether she was even alive.
“Randi and I started plugging away on the Internet, and we were able to find his grandmother’s name associated with the address,” Suazo said. “We called wrong numbers until, finally, we got someone who was his uncle’s ex-wife.”
Reid’s uncle, Pierre Grant, 59, called the couple directly after his ex-wife contacted him.
“John started telling me about what took place between them and Pedro, and I knew immediately he was talking about my nephew,” Grant said. “For over 20 years, we had been praying and believing that one day we would find him, and the day finally came. This is a miracle.”
Grant booked a flight from Charleston to L.A. to pick up Reid. Emmans and Suazo were able to cover the travel costs with the funds they raised, as well as get a covid-19 test for Reid, which came back negative. The couple and Grant also tested negative for the virus before the reunion.
Mia Green, Reid’s cousin, also journeyed from Atlanta to L.A., after testing negative for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“When I heard the news, I decided I was definitely going,” she said. “Randi and John are godsent people. I don’t even have words for the heart they have to stop and speak to him and then find us.”
Finally, on Aug. 7, Reid was face-to-face with his family. Flooded with emotion, his eyes filled with tears as he wrapped his arms around his cousin and his uncle, after 20 years of barely scraping by and aimlessly wandering the streets alone.
They spent the night in Hollywood and shared a meal with Emmans and Suazo, then drove back to Reid’s childhood home in Charleston the next morning. Reid is now living with his aunt and uncle there. He was devastated to learn that his grandmother died last year.
“He’s still my Pedro,” said his mother, Deborah Reid, 69, who lives in Converse, Tex., but has been speaking to her son regularly on the phone the past few weeks. She’s planning to make her way to Charleston when it’s safe to travel for a big family celebration.
As a young mother of three, Deborah Reid admittedly struggled to keep up with her children, particularly Reid, as he reached his teenage years.
“He was a perfect son and an A student in school,” said Deborah Reid, who gave birth to her son when she was 15. As Reid got older, she said, “he was hanging out with the wrong people and getting into trouble.”
Then the drinking started, and things spiraled from there, Reid recalled.
“I was young and did the best I could as a parent,” Deborah Reid said. “Every member in the family tried to straighten him out, and he went to live with my baby sister in California.”
“The last time I heard from him was in 2010,” she said. “I knew he hadn’t been in jail since then because I would have heard from him.”
When months had gone by and the family still had no word from Reid, they began calling detention centers in L.A. and elsewhere, hoping to find him.
“I prayed for him every night,” Deborah Reid said. “For years I was thinking he died, and no one knew.”
Now that Reid has found his family, he is adjusting to his new life and is elated to embark on this next chapter.
“I believe I can help a lot of people that are still in the position that I was in,” said Reid, who hopes to share his story and shed light on the realities of homelessness.
He plans to further his education — which ended after high school — and find himself a stable job.
He also said he wants to make Emmans and Suazo proud.
“Their names will forever be etched on my heart,” Reid said. “I’m indescribably thankful that they cared enough to get me home.”
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