A homeless young woman, who was missing for months, is back with her family after her mother spotted her on a local television news interview.
This week, Jill Rosenow of Dickinson, North Dakota, hugged her 25-year-old daughter, Alice Crawford, whom she hadn’t seen in nearly three months, after Crawford moved to Denver and cut off contact. In late October, Rosenow spotted her daughter in a 9 News segment about how the homeless survived a recent snowstorm. The mom flew to Colorado, pounding the pavement in search of her daughter.
“Alice has been in a downward spiral for years and she uses drugs to self-medicate,” Rosenow, 44, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
In late August, says her mom, Crawford abandoned the apartment she had shared with a family member, without paying rent. Rosenow believes that her daughter lived in fear of being sent to rehab and getting arrested on a warrant for a misdemeanor crime. “She wasn’t thinking clearly,” Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Crawford gave her mother a heads-up about the move, but Rosenow wasn’t able to successfully intervene. This wasn’t the first time Crawford had disappeared — a few years ago, the young woman became homeless in Texas, only found when Rosenow hired a detective to track her down in a hotel room.
Rosenow heard from her daughter sporadically, usually via text message from unknown numbers or through Snapchat, to share that she was living in Boulder and later that her ID had been stolen. “I said, ‘Alice, I have your birth certificate, can I have your address to mail it?’” Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I also offered to have someone give her money in person. She wouldn’t tell me.”
The uncertainty drained Rosenow’s health. She barely slept and developed tachycardia, a condition that makes the heart beat faster; the mom felt hopeless that her daughter would surface safely.
On Oct. 29, Rosenow received a final message from her daughter. “It just said, ‘We are in Denver. We’re trying to work and stay warm,’” she says.
Earlier this month, Rosenow was forwarded a news video from 9 News, in which her daughter was interviewed on camera. "This is death weather. If you’re not prepared for this, you’re going to die," Crawford, identified by her full name, told journalist Marc Sallinger. The young woman had given her coat to a friend, who was also freezing.
"I sleep behind the dumpster because you stay out of the wind and some of the snow doesn’t fall on you,” said Crawford, adding, “We don’t even sleep at night. We have to wait until the sun is out to sleep because we’re too damn cold. You have to constantly move around."
Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle that watching the news story was “one of those most heartbreaking moments of my life. I cried seeing her that vulnerable on camera.”
Five family members, spread out across North Dakota, Washington state, and California, flew to Denver on Nov. 12, including Rosenow’s mother, who walks with a cane. After calling Sallinger for help, they learned that the interview took place across the street from Civic Center Park. “That was our starting point,” Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The family split up, staking out the park, a local McDonald’s that Crawford was rumored to frequent, the 16th Street Mall, Union bus station, and a homeless shelter where Rosenow sat across from with a pair of binoculars to watch the front door. “Some days, we’d be on the streets until 2 a.m.,” she says.
Walking through the park at night where many in the homeless community stayed, Rosenow and her mother learned that Crawford had once spent the night in someone’s tent. “People were willing to look at our fliers and pray for us,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Some said they wished their own family members would search for them. That resonated so deeply.”
On Thursday, while in the mall parking lot, Rosenow received a phone call from her step-sister, Theresa Brown. Crawford had been found in Union Station.
“We walked into the restroom thinking it was empty and the last stall was occupied, and as I was getting ready to go into my stall, we heard her voice,” Brown told 9 News.
Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the call sent her into a panic and due to a broken GPS, she drove the wrong way down a one-way street. The family brought Crawford to their hotel, where she was met by her mom.
Crawford was sick with a viral illness and a bacterial infection on her hands. She had been living off of stolen food from a grocery store. Rosenow took her daughter to the emergency room where she was hydrated and provided anti-nausea medication. Now, she is living with family in Washington where she will eventually enter rehab.
“Finding Alice was amazing, but I didn’t allow myself to feel anything until she was in my arms and we were bawling like babies,” Rosenow tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I said to her, ‘Don’t you ever do this to me again.’”
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