top of page


It's a long story of five days attending to one of our well known homeless fellows who has been living in the woods of Pioneer Park for the last several years. Swampy, as he is known to his street friends and Sierra Roots, has a real name which is Phillip Joel Courture. I started to call him Phil, but when I met his family, I found out they have always called him Joe. He is the youngest of three. He has one son, Brendan, who is a straight A student at his university. Joe is very proud of all of them and feels close to them but that he is a burden to them because he has MS and can't take care of himself.

Though Joe gets a good bit of money for disability, he uses it up pretty quickly each month, as he has a very generous heart and ends up helping every other homeless person he can, buying them food, drink and cigarettes. He also uses a lot of marijuana for the pain of his MS.

Several weeks ago, Swampy (Joe) showed up at Streicher House in desperate need and shame. His MS had advanced to such a degree that he was falling a lot, and then lost all control of his bowels and kidneys. I was told this was the final stage of MS which is considered a chronic condition. He was also being mugged by other people in the park who wanted to steal his money. He really needed a place to stay that would be safe and where he would be assisted with his medicines and money.

I took Joe to the hospital though I hesitated taking him to the ER because of how he has been dismissed there when he has gone before by himself. I took him to the Urgent Care Clinic at Western Sierra Medical but there were no doctors there, and the Physician's Assistant didn't know what to do for him. They sent us to the ER anyway.

I really thought someone there would be able to help us find a Skilled Nursing Facility where Joe could stay. I learned that a person would need to stay for three midnights in the hospital before a doctor could request a nursing facility to take him in. And because his MS was not considered acute but chronic, no doctor was willing to have him stay for three nights. He was going to be released that day. I said it would be an unsafe release, and two of the social workers at the hospital helped me get the doctors to keep him another night.

With a warm bed to sleep in and some regular meals, Joe began feeling better and did regain control over his bowels. His dear sister, Terry, who lives in San Jose, has been trying to get him into a care facility for several years. I called her and told her what we were trying to do, and she immediately provided first month financing to put him in West View in Auburn, which is a large facility with great ratings. Because this was the Columbus Day weekend, and we needed to put him in a motel for a night while waiting to get into West View. Motels were full too. Finally we found one that was very good to Joe and the next morning we were able to take him to a safe place.

Joe is happy there. He calls it his home, and he has made many friends there already. He says sometimes he misses his old friends and the trees and the stars and moon that he slept under for so many nights. But as the rain pours down and it gets colder, he is very happy to be inside and being taken care of. I go to visit Joe as often as I can and take him out to the bank to get some money and to the store for cigarettes, sodas and candy bars. He would really like a doctor to get him a script for marijuana and to get some "good stuff". That will be the next thing I'll try to do for Joe. We are all so relieved he is in a safe and healthy place now.

~Janice O'Brien

bottom of page