Tragic upbringing of a two-year-old child found wandering barefoot in the night revealed
Tragic upbringing of a two-year-old child found wandering barefoot in the night revealed
The full scale of the tragic upbringing of a two-year-old child found wandering barefoot in the middle of a night after leaving her homeless parents’ cardboard box has been revealed.
Daily Mail Online has established how Jeremiyah Jones, whose plight caused an outpouring of shock and pledges to help, was born to a troubled mother who was a crack baby herself, and a father with a 30-year history of addiction to the drug.
Perhaps most surprisingly, police were aware of her mother’s presence on the streets – raising questions over whether family services could have been alerted sooner to save the children from living in such deplorable conditions.
Angelique Roland, 27, and her partner, Michael Jones, 54, were discovered sleeping in rough conditions under cardboard boxes in Philadelphia’s Love Park early in the hours of Saturday morning after their son Jeremiyah, two, was rescued.
Their other child, daughter, Malaysia, four, was also among the cardboard boxes. The couple claimed they had been kicked out of a relative’s home they were living in. His parents had reported him missing to police and they will not be charged.
The couple said they had no money to pay rent and were forced to sleep in the park because the homeless shelters were full.
Angelique Roland told WPVI: ‘If I had somewhere to go, I would be there. I am not out here on the streets with my kids on purpose.’
The presence of a two- and four-year-old child on the streets has raised concern about what appears to be a growing homelessness problem in several U.S. cites.
Already this year Hawaii’s governor and Los Angeles’ mayor have declared state of emergency, while in New York the ultra-liberal mayor Bill de Blasio spent much of the summer denying there was a problem until even his own police commissioner called for action.
According to projecthome.org, at any given point, Philadelphia has an average of 650 people living on the streets, 300 of whom are in the city center – although how many are children is unclear.
About 12,000 people, including families, access shelters each year in the city.
Nationwide, the most recent figures are from last year when the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report revealed that on a single night in January, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S.
Most – 69 per cent – were in sheltered locations, and nearly a quarter of the homeless were children.
But the story of Jeremyiah, revealed by relatives of his mother to Daily Mail Online, shows how deeply troubled his family circumstances were.
Angelique Roland and Michael Jones declined to be interviewed on advisement from attorneys, according to Pastor Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries, which helped fund-raise to get the family off the street.
Relatives of Angelique her own difficult childhood and their attempts to reach out to her. At some point she converted to Islam, despite having been brought up a Christian.
Her uncle Aquil Hadin described Angelique as a ‘crack baby’ but said that her mother, Courtney Quitman had not used drugs only her father, Keith Roland.
Her father is still believed to be in Philadelphia but attempts to reach him by Daily Mail Online were unsuccessful.
Mr Hadin, who lives in Michigan, said: ‘She didn’t fully develop as a baby. Her father smoked crack. She’s not had it easy.’
He last saw his niece about five years ago. ‘She was born and raised in Philadelphia,’ Mr Hadin said. ‘She would come up here for visits when she was a little girl.’
Around the age of 16, Angelique had a son to an unknown father. The child was given up for adoption and taken in one of Angelique’s uncles on her father’s side.
Angelique and her mother Courtney, who is Mr Hadin’s his sister, were arguing over social security payments that Angelique believed her mother was spending on herself and not on her. ‘That made Angelique angry,’ her uncle said.
‘She had mental challenges and it was hard for my sister to handle her. At 16, she went to a residential group home in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania,’ Mr Hadin said.
‘She was there until 18 and I believe she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.’
Her uncle claims Angelique obtained her GED at the group home but he did not know if she had ever held down a job.
Mr Hadin said: ‘I tried to get her to come and live with me and my family in Michigan but she’s argumentative and would never listen to what I was saying.
‘I tried to be in touch with her but she was always losing her phone.’
Angelique was living in homeless shelters where she met Michael Jones, 54, around six years ago.
Mr Hadin learned of his niece’s situation from his brother, Gilbert Quitman, who lives in Philadelphia.
‘It was such a shock,’ Mr Hadin said. ‘You don’t expect that to happen to your family. I volunteered at shelters in Philadelphia in the past and I always wondered how you could be born in a city and end up homeless in it.
‘Angelique’s problems are psychological. When you feel no one loves you, you cling to someone that will give you attention.
‘And she has also poured that yearning for love into having children who need her.’
He didn’t know if his niece was medicated or had access to the care she needed.
The uncle also believed that Angelique and her children were homeless because of her relationship with Michael Jones.
Another of Angelique’s uncles, Gilbert Quitman, told Daily Mail Online that he was shocked to have seen her on TV and had not seen his niece in five years.
He said Angelique had never done drugs and never been in trouble with the police.
Mr Quitman’s ex-wife Frances, also told Daily Mail Online that she believed Angelique’s mother Courtney would be ‘heartbroken’ to see her daughter in this situation.
She also believed that Angelique and her children would have a place to stay with her mother.
‘Angel could go home to her mother,’ Ms Quitman said. ‘She was a sweet child, she was raised up in the church with her grandmother. She was brought up by a good family.’
Ms Quitman said that she barely recognized Angelique on TV because she was wearing the Muslim hijab and she had known her to be raised a Christian.
The uncertainty over large parts of Angelique’s life among her own family reveals something of her troubles.
Angelique’s uncle said he believed that she had been living at a house in north Philadelphia at one time. Mr Quitman said that he was unsure where she was living and that her mother had not known where she was.
Miss Roland and Mr Jones were confirmed to have lived for several years at an address in west Philadelphia. The home now lies derelict with a ‘no trespassing sign’ on the door.
A former neighbor of the couple, Kristina Fountain, 24, told Daily Mail Online: ‘Angelique was really cool and a really good girl.
‘She was married to an older guy, he was really nice. He was working, taking care of his family.’
Miss Fountain said that Angelique was not from the neighborhood and rarely had visitors. She believed that Angelique was receiving government assistance while living at the address and that the home belonged to Mr Jones’ family.
She said the couple moved away around four years ago, when Angelique was pregnant but that she did not know where they had gone.
Miss Fountain said they may have been having problems with their neighbors.
There was no answer at an apartment block in north Philadelphia, where Angelique was believed to have been staying more recently.
Michael Jones’ sister, Kathy Harris, 58, spoke to Daily Mail Online in Love Park where the family had been found.
She said that before they ended up on the streets, the couple and their children had been living with her sister ‘but she had been forced to put them out’.
She wasn’t sure what happened other than that her brother lost his job and was unable to pay rent.
‘It’s been hard for him to get a job but he’s a working man,’ Ms Harris said, adding that her brother had previously worked as a cook and doing odd jobs around people’s houses.
Michael Jones served ten years in prison, according to Philly.com and spent three decades addicted to crack which left him homeless for five years.
But Ms Harris said her brother was clean from drugs. She claimed the family had been staying in Love Park hideout for just a couple of days and said they were thanking God that nothing had happened to Jeremiyah.
Ms Harris, who has also been homeless in the past, said that no one could really understand how hard it was out in the street until they had experienced it. She also said that she believed Angelique was pregnant again.
Questions over whether the presence of a young family on the streets could have been prevented were raised by the disclosure that Roland was known to police.
On October 4, Angelique Roland was involved in an incident with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) police, they confirmed.
A City Hall official told Daily Mail Online that she was arrested by SEPTA police for resisting arrest at 16th Street and John F Kennedy Boulevard, on the southwest corner of Love Park.
The arrest reveals that authorities were aware of Angelique Roland in the area at this time – but the exact whereabouts of her family at this time have not been established.
She was charged with disorderly conduct and failed to appear for court on October 19 at which time a warrant was issued for her arrest, Pennsylvania court documents revealed.
A prosecutor’s office source confirmed to Daily Mail Online that the warrant exists and an officer with the court warrants division confirmed there was an active warrant for Angelique Roland.
It raises questions over SEPTA officers’ conduct.
A Project HOME spokesperson could not speak to the specific situation but pointed to the 1999 Philadelphia Sidewalk Behavior Ordnance which aims to prevent people who are homeless from being criminalized.
According to a provision in the city ordnance, officers cannot arrest someone for the very act of being homeless, but must call an outreach worker to offer them assistance.
The spokesperson said: ‘It makes sure when someone is homeless, they aren’t criminalized because what they need is housing and services. If the person is committing a crime, then they are committing a crime – but it’s not a crime to be homeless.’
Since their plight was made public, the couple have had a change in fortune with well-wishers donating $12,000. Chosen 300’s Pastor Brian Jenkins urged people to continue to donate as he claimed the couple still needed to furnish their home and for counselling services.
The money has been given directly to a landlord to cover their rent for a year and they are due to move into a three-bedroom home next week.
At the moment the couple were staying at an undisclosed Marriott hotel in the city.
The couple have also received a number of job offers.
Jeremiah and his four-year-old sister have been with the Department of Human Services since they were found on Friday.
On Wednesday, a family court judge continued the case until October 29. The parents will be allowed to see their children twice a week for two-hour periods.