GOOD NEWS! Thanks to all of your help (and some unexpected blessings), John is now taking care of for double the amount of time we first said. Originally we thought the GoFundMe would only cover him for a year. As long as no other expenses occur, he should be good until June of 2021!
He has his own private apartment. A home care nurse who comes and checks in on him. And as we speak he is safe, he is happy and he is contently listening to his radio in his own home, thanks to all of you.
***UPDATE: To be clear, for those concerned, this money is not being given to John, it is going to his caretaker Frank for room and board to be distributed monthly from the gofundme. Basically, we the community are privately paying with donations for him to stay where he is because John's benefits are not enough. This is where John wants to be. If he is moved he will need even more money because all affordable options are full, and anything else is twice as expensive. I understand this is confusing, but this is how we had to do this because of how the system is set up.
John Cruz was a bright young track star at Castle High school. He graduated Class of 1967. He went on to join the military and fought in Vietnam, he came back a changed Man. And was homeless from then on. You may know John as Mango Man.
Mango Man is a monument to those of us who have grown up on the windward side of Oahu. I know many of you have your own Mango Man story. We all take care of him even though he never asked. But now, he needs your help more than ever.
April 2015 John was taken to Castle Medical Center, where a badly infected leg had to be amputated to save his life. When people learned of what happened, stories flooded in, stories of John helping people from getting hit by cars, defending keiki from bullying....all this time John has been a silent hero, standing in the shade of our passing vehicles! Standing watch!
Thanks to the great care at Castle, he survived. From there he went to a care home. For the first time he had a home.
Thanks to the VA and the state he was placed with a great family, only blocks from where he grew up in Kaneohe. John’s caretaker has been caring for john in his home for 4 years. And John has thrived thanks to a small team assisting ( his niece, long time friend and legal fiduciary, his caretaker, guardian, and a couple of community volunteers)
Unfortunately circumstances have changed and his caretaker can no longer care for john as he has been. (His caretaker is elderly and can no longer lift him,) Team Cruz extensively tried to locate a new care home, but John’s unique needs and lack of sufficient funds is a problem. (John gets money from the VA but it’s no longer enough and he is not eligible for anything more)
Team Cruz regrouped and found a possible way to keep him where he is (which is Johns wish). We have to raise the money and donate to the caretaker for the room and board. With some minor adjustments on his families property next door and bringing on his daughter to the care team, we may just be able to do that. This is the best option when care homes want $3000-$13,000 a month.
We are hoping you, his windward ohana can donate to his care-home and keep him off the streets. Due to his age, and the loss of leg, that would be a terrible situation. Right now, John is doing well, and we are all dedicated to keeping him that way.
We will continue to keep you updated on the situation, and thank you John is so grateful for all of your continued love and support.
PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR AN AMAZING INTERVIEW DONE WITH JOHN BY THE EDITOR OF HANA HOU
*note that this money will be distributed directly to his caretaker . His care is overseen by his legal caretaker and legal guardian along with his niece and a case manager at the VA. ** PLEASE Note: the state cannot be legally involved in raising funds, they are only involved in securing Johns care. Any fundraising has to be done privately. We are in direct daily contact with his legal guardian ROGER. *
Painting by Laurie Rodriguez
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN CRUZ by: HanaHou Magazine
"I don’t know how many times I saw him before I noticed him, the dark, shambolic figure haunting the intersection of Hahani Street and Hämäkua Drive in Kailua. He was huge even when hunching, six-foot-four and draped in Vietnam-era fatigues ballooning from the untold layers of clothing beneath. Apart from a kindly (if grimy) face framed by a tangle of dreadlocks, his hands were the only visible patches of skin. Though he’d been hit by a car while crossing a street in 2005, he’d roam with the help of a donated walker. Sometimes you’d see him near the Kailua Road bridge, sometimes way over on Keolu Drive but usually at his post near the car audio shop fronting Hämäkua marsh, beside which he slept beneath the stars
I started hearing the stories after moving to Kailua in 2005. Every small town has its public characters, its hard-luck cases and street-corner saviors. But “Mango Man” was different.
He’d been wandering the Windward side since he returned from Vietnam in the late ’60s and become one of its most visible, even famous residents. Local kids had grown up in his orbit. He’d become enough of a fixture in the East-side landscape that he’s depicted in a mural at the McDonald’s in the Wind-ward City Shopping Center.
But dig a little and you find that few really know anything about him. One point of consensus: Mango Man rarely spoke. He never begged, but that was about as far as the agreement went.
Theories explaining his predicament ranged from plausible (PTSD), to far-fetched (his house had burned down with his wife and child inside) to downright nuts (he was a millionaire who preferred life on the streets). Nobody I came across knew his real name nor why he was called Mango Man.
He slept under a mango tree, some said. Or he used to sell mangoes. Or he just liked mangoes. Whatever his true story, the police never bothered him, he fended for himself (he’d refuse money or food that wasn’t to his taste), and he came and went as he liked. “He’s not homeless,” a friend once remarked as we watched Mango Man drift by the Kailua Road Starbucks. “He just lives outdoors.” But few realized just how beloved Mango Man was until last spring, when he suddenly vanished. Kailua-related Face-book pages blew up with anecdotes: How Mango Man had pulled a tenth-grader away from a car about to hit a bus stop; how he’d protect kids by scaring off bullies; how he’d stand at a respectful distance as women headed for their cars after leaving Boardriders Bar and Grill late at night. Kailuans posted images of original artwork featuring Mango Man.
But mostly Windward residents wanted to know what had happened to their “guardian angel,” their “living landmark.”
He’d been in the hospital it turns out. In April 2015 a group of concerned Kailuans visited Mango Man, whose real name is John Cruz, to give him a new walker. He was in need of emergency care, as his leg had become infected. He was taken to Castle Medical Center, where the leg had to be amputated. From there he went to a care home, which is where I finally met him last March.
He lay on a cot listening to a staticky battery-powered radio. With his dreads shorn and dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, he seemed half the size he’d been on the streets. At first he wouldn’t meet my gaze and answered my questions only with nods, single words or grunts, but we managed to have a conversation.
Kailua missed him, I said. Had he seen all the social media posts? He had. Did the outpouring of support surprise him? Not really. He liked people. Was he happy to be off the streets? A shrug.
Comfortable, he conceded.
We talked for about twenty minutes and in that time he gave glimpses of a wary and sharp intelligence behind his mask of withdrawal. I asked if he knew that the Kailua community were working to get him a prosthetic leg. For the only time in our conversation he seemed excited. What’ll you do when you can walk again? I asked. “The streets,” he said, adding, “I like the freedom.”
As I got up to leave, I told him the community would be happy to see him out there again, ironic as that sounds. But what about the name, Mango Man? What did it mean? He chuckled. It’s something his brother made up when they were kids, he said, to tease him. He didn’t know what it meant, and he doesn’t much like it.
What would he like to be called, then, if he ever finds his way back to his usual spot? He smiled. “John,” he said"