Archive for Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mother struggles to help homeless son

December 26, 2004


Robert Gilmore's mother says her 47-year-old son has struggled with mental illness since childhood.

"He was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic when he was 8 years old, and again when he was 20," she said, declining to share her first name.

"He's blind, too," she said. "He had retinitis pigmentosa as a child."

Robert Gilmore, who's homeless, is well-known in Lawrence for, among other things, sitting in front of Weaver's Department Store for several months last year. He later moved to a spot on the sidewalk outside the Replay Lounge.

He's also known for wearing socks on his hands and walking in traffic.

Mrs. Gilmore and her other son, who declined to be interviewed, spent much of Friday morning at the Douglas County Jail, hoping to convince Robert Gilmore to return to Missouri with them. He refused.

Robert Gilmore had been in jail for striking a police officer after being asked to leave the municipal parking garage behind the Replay Lounge. He was released Friday.

Robert Gilmore accepted a ride to the Salvation Army, 946 N.H., with the Rev. Paul Gray, pastor at Heartland Community Church downtown. Once there, he gathered his belongings and walked south on New Hampshire Street.

Mrs. Gilmore said her son graduated with honors from School of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo., in 1979. He later came to Kansas University to work on a master's degree.

"He had to quit because his eyesight was failing him," she said. "He couldn't see."

Mrs. Gilmore said she had lost track of Robert Gilmore, who's been homeless or near-homeless in Lawrence for at least 20 years.

"I didn't know where he was until about a month ago," she said. "And now I've been here (jail) three times in two weeks."

Mrs. Gilmore said her other son has a 5-acre lot and has offered to let Robert Gilmore live there in a mobile home. He's refused the offer.

Though thankful for police and social service agencies' frequent checks on her son, Mrs. Gilmore said she struggled to understand why her son has not been institutionalized.

"They won't keep him at the state hospital," she said, bristling at the legal requirement that Robert Gilmore must be ruled a danger to himself or others before he can be held in mental hospital against his will.

"My son is sick," she said, her voice edged with frustration. "I'm 80 years old and I can't do anything for my son. This has me in tears all the time."

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