At the shelter, workers collected the funds to get Cassie Faulk to a cousin’s friend in Texas, but she didn’t want to leave until she had her baby’s ashes. Shelter manager Gina Kirkland went out to the camp where Faulk had been staying, but a woman there told her the ashes were locked up and she didn’t know where the key was.
CRESTVIEW — For nearly a year, Cassie Faulk had been homeless, camping in the woods despite her numerous disabilities. Faulk, now in her 30s, suffered a stroke at 15, which left her unable to communicate clearly.
She was quickly victimized by other transients.
"They took her money, left her high and dry, sucked her into doing drugs," said Gina Kirkland, manager for the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless.
Faulk had gotten clean on her own, but was still living in the woods when Kirkland found her.
"We were able to get her out of the tent," she recalled. "She hadn’t eaten in four days. ‘Get in my car,’ I told her. ‘We’re going to McDonalds and we’re going to get you something to eat.’ "
At the shelter, workers collected the funds to get Faulk to a cousin’s friend in Texas, but she didn’t want to leave because her baby’s ashes were still in the woods where she’d been living. She didn’t tell the shelter workers about what or when it happened, but they knew they needed to help.
Kirkland went out to the camp where Faulk had been staying, but a woman there told her the ashes were locked up and she didn’t know where the key was.
Kirkland contacted the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and asked for help.
The Sheriff’s Office rallied behind the cause, sending Deputy Joshua Hamilton to help. After going to the camp several times, he was able to get the small leather pouch that contained the infant’s cremated remains.
He brought them to Kirkland’s home on a Sunday morning. She gathered up folks at the shelter and presented them to Faulk.
"It was a real touching moment," Kirkland said. "She cried. I did, too."
Now Faulk is in Texas, starting physical therapy to help regain some use of the parts of her body damaged by the long-ago stroke.
She wasn’t able to articulate exactly how she felt about getting her baby back, but Kirkland knew how much it meant.
"I just could tell in her face," she said. "She said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ "