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Little Jack's World: Young boy, father work to rebuild lives at shelter

Posted: Monday, January 04, 2010

The sign on 2-year-old Jack Reed Adams III's bedroom door says "Staff Only. Enter Without Permission, 3-Day Suspension." Inside the converted Glory Hole storage room are a hodge-podge of items: an old computer, desk, boxes of nameless knick-knacks, plastic storage totes, bedding, stuff lost in an old elevator shaft and other assorted things that, like Jack and his father, Jack Reed Adams Jr., 55, don't have a place.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

It is the day after Christmas - a day when nearly-3-year-old boys should be rolling on the living room floor with new toys, watching television or playing outside. Young Jack, who turns 3 on Thursday, and his father have instead been standing outside in the rain waiting for a possible lead on a 26-foot bayliner sailboat in Aurora Harbor. Their appointment is late so they go back into the Glory Hole and upstairs to their room.

"It is only since late June that we have been homeless," Jack Adams Jr. said. "The cooking job I had closed with the season. I have always had a job. This is tough. This is no way to raise a boy."

Glory Hole patrons call the boy "Little Jack" or "Little Buddy" or "Little Man." They all keep a watch over him. He is the only young child that has been living at the homeless shelter and knows more Glory Hole patrons than his father. Social services workers also visited the two at the shelter.

"In (Office of Children's Services) case, without a report from the public alleging the child is unsafe or that his or her needs are not being met, then we do not have any authority to do anything," Department of Health and Social Services public information officer Susan Morgan said. "OCS responds to reports from the public or those mandated in these cases, such as doctors or people like that. If they suspect abuse or neglect, that would instigate our involvement."

Little Jack and his father came to Juneau in November from Fairbanks. They arrived with one suitcase. They were tired of the cold. Before November, they also lived in Anchorage, Kenai, Homer and Barrow.

Jack Jr. met his wife in Nome, where he spent three years watching the Iditarod come to town and cooking at the Polar Cafe. She is a Siberian Yup'ik from St. Lawrence Island with a drinking problem. She abandoned them seven months after Jack III was born. Little Jack has spent most of his life going to day care of some sort while his father tried to work odd jobs. His mom called at 3 a.m. the day after Christmas to talk to Little Jack. She thought it was 3 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Little Jack helped decorate the Glory Hole Christmas tree. Every night, he would walk downstairs to take the ornaments off and put them back on. This was his first real Christmas, his father said. Two days before Christmas, he bent his dad's debit card so badly it became unusable.

Thanks to services such as the Glory Hole and its board of directors, First Street Clinic, SEARHC and SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the two received 15 pair of gloves, 72 pairs of socks, several T-shirts and assorted clothes. The small loveseat where Little Jack sleeps is now surrounded by dozens of stuffed animals. His father sleeps on a cot with a roll-up mattress. Seven clocks lay about alongside a broken chair. Outside their door, a few men sleep on mattresses. Little Jack once saw a mouse sneak across his bedroom floor. During meals, Little Jack often wanders into the kitchen to talk with staff.

"It's been kinda nice having him around," kitchen staff member Chris Barrios said. "We don't get very many kids here. I think a lot of these guys have kids somewhere so it makes them feel good. It may not be the best environment, but he has 30 big brothers in here looking out for him."

Nine years ago, Jack Jr. worked as a cook at the Glory Hole and the Fiddlehead. He has a culinary degree from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. He is on unemployment, waiting for the tourist season to begin and hoping someone will need to hire another cook.

They are currently on the Tlingit Haida, Alaska Housing, and St. Vincent de Paul housing lists, but have been told it could be close to a year before something opens up. The boat in Aurora Harbor fell through. It would have been a sweet deal for $1,000 and $250 a month moorage, including use of shower facilities. Little Jack doesn't shower every day, but he loves the water.

"It was smaller than where we are now," Adams said. "There was no room for him to move about and needed some repair. I don't think it was safe for him there."

Little Jack was in Puddle Jumpers Day Care for about a week while Jack Jr. worked part time at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. He was welcome among the 34 kids at the day care, but struggled with abandonment issues, so now Jack Jr. takes him on interviews and housing searches.

"He was such a welcome addition here," said Ashley Brown, assistant director of Puddle Jumpers Preschool and Day Care. "He was a wonderful child and we look forward to him coming back."

Father and son try to include a long walk around the town and learn about the history of Juneau. Little Jack loves tents and Jack Jr. said they would sleep outdoors in the Kelby tent that Santa brought if the weather wasn't so cold. At 50 pounds in his XtraTufs, Little Jack isn't ready for nights at the homeless camps. He wants a little yellow dump truck and a Bob The Builder Lego set from the store window down the block, past the bars and the noise, where he can press his nose against the glass and pretend he is inside.

Little Jack is very polite. He says 'hi' when he sees someone and 'bye' when they are going. He would invite you into his house if he had one, and let you play with his Legos, too.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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