NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After more than two decades, a homeless man is home.
Jose Lopez lost touch with his family after separating from his wife and moving to Florida with his mother. He reconnected with his kids over the phone a few years ago, then went silent to them after suffering a series of strokes and ending up homeless.
The 61-year-old says he was determined to find his daughters, reports CBS2’s Meg Baker. He took his Social Security money and traveled back to New Jersey, hoping to make it to Bradley Beach.
“Empty … and I hated feeling that way,” Lopez said.
A New Jersey Transit police officer first spotted Lopez at the Secaucus Junction Station.
News Conference With Sean Pfeifer, Jose Lopez And Family
He asked him if he needed assistance, and when the bewildered father said yes, crisis outreach officer Sean Pfeifer stepped in.
“Mr. Lopez was intent on finding his family, and I wanted to make sure that I was there to help him with doing that,” said Pfeifer.
He called dozens of possible family members.
“I was actually in a parking lot and I had checked my voicemail,” said Angela Viviani of Neptune, one of Lopez’s daughters. “And I’m like, is this a scam or something?”
Pfeifer went above and beyond, helping Lopez clean up before he reunited with his daughters and met his grandkids for the first time.
Kristy Viviani was 17 years old the last time she saw her father. Angela Viviani was 10.
Their meeting was a powerful experience for everyone involved.
A tearful, heartwarming reunion! NJ Transit Police reunite a homeless man with his family after 24 years!! Jose Lopez not only got to hug his daughters, he met his grandkids for the first time! Lopez was given a shave and a haircut, plus new clothes for the big reunion moment. pic.twitter.com/puIYKRp2QW
— NJ TRANSIT (@NJTRANSIT) August 20, 2019
“I was that little girl,” Angela said.
“I saw on his face, you know, I remembered the eyes and, um, it’s just very nerve-wracking,” Kristy said.
“To feel their emotion, behind the camera I was tearing up,” said Pfeifer.
“I’m thinking, I’m in Heaven, I’ve got my two best girls. I got a good friend,” said Lopez.
Pfeifer says not all homeless people accept help for one reason or another. He is grateful Lopez did, and it will be a highlight of his career.
As for Lopez, he is getting mental health help from the PATH Program, a mental health association.
His daughters say they look forward to many family barbecues.