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The homeless in the area, seen here at a hospitality center, are finding homes, thanks to Micah Ecumenical Ministries.
FILE/REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
Greg Rechinger always knew the phone would ring in the middle of the night with bad news about his brother-in-law. And when the call came in the wee hours of New Year's Day, it confirmed his worst fears: His wife's brother was on life support.
But he was shocked to learn that Tommy Rodriguez, who had struggled with alcoholism since his teen years, wasn't found in a ditch or on the side of the road.
Friends brought Rodriguez to the hospital, the doctor told his family.
"And they said that Micah helped him," Rechinger said. "We were like, 'Who's Micah?'"
Micah is Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a coalition of Fredericksburg churches that banded together to help the homeless. In recent years, the organization has stepped up efforts to get the chronically homeless into homes.
Micah's staff and volunteers helped Rodriguez get disability payments and use that money to rent his own apartment in the city, a tiny home with a bed, TV and cabinets brimming with food, including boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Rodriguez was a big fan of the comfort food, and finding the boxes in his home brought comfort to his family.
Rodriguez died on Jan. 2, at the age of 46. Shortly after his death, his family toured his tiny apartment.
"It was unbelievable," Rechinger said. "Before, if he had any food, he would have sold it to buy alcohol. It was so beautiful to us, to walk in there and know somebody was able to do this for him."
'AN AMAZING GIFT'
Rechinger and his wife, Tammy, gave Rodriguez a place to live when he was in his 20s and drinking heavily. They took him to rehab countless times. For nearly 20 years, they kept time in 30-day increments. Rodriguez would go through one monthlong rehab stay after another.
"When he was sober, he was the nicest guy," Rechinger said. "If he ever got his life straightened out, there were unlimited possibilities. Everyone loved him."
But sobriety didn't stick.
As the Rechingers' children grew, the couple knew they couldn't keep Rodriguez in their home. But they struggled with their guilt.
Five years ago, Rechinger found his brother-in-law sleeping in a horse trough behind a church. Rechinger brought his brother-in-law home. But again, it didn't last.
Micah Ecumenical Ministries has helped so many homeless people find housing that the agency doesn't have enough beds. To donate a bed, contact Connie Jones at email@example.com or call 540/604-4493, ext. 215 to make arrangements for pickups or deliveries.
To learn more about how to help Micah, call 540/479-4116.