Photo of Laura and Ed Noe, courtesy of Laura Noe
When Angel Salinas immigrated to Connecticut from Ecuador, he opened Johanna’s, a small restaurant for breakfast and lunch, in downtown New Milford. One day a disheveled, smelly homeless man showed up at his back door. It was Ed Noe. This began a friendship where Salinas fed Ed breakfast and lunch for nine years.
A little strange, but nothings really wrong
Ed’s older sister Laura Noe remembers talking to one of Ed’s childhood friends who said that there was something different about Ed back in grade school. He would hear voices but everyone thought it was a childish thing.
“He was just my quirky, cool little brother,” said Laura.
Ed struggled in high school and was sent to the Thomas Moore School where he graduated in 1986. He went onto graduate the University of Maine in Orono with an Associates Degree in Forestry. Ed loved trees and the outdoors.
Laura began to notice Ed’s bizarre behavior in college but made nothing of it until their mother died of brain cancer in 1990. Their family dealt with the pain by keeping it hidden and not talking, which Laura believes were contributing factors to sending Ed over the edge into mental illness.
Around this time, Ed hitchhiked on foot across the United States from Connecticut to Alaska. He worked in a salmon cannery for awhile, then hitchhiked back to Connecticut.
“I just thought of him as a modern day hippie,” said Laura. “He played guitar and was a gentle soul. I thought of him as nomadic because he was never in one place—never homeless.”
The seeds of illness
Laura describes a trip to Boston where she bumped into Ed with her son standing in a hotel lobby. She would not see him again for nine years. “He came in and out of your life—showing up on doorsteps,” she said.
Ed eventually centered his life in New Milford where he transitioned from nomadic to homeless.
After their dad died of cancer in January of 2015, Laura felt the urge to reconnect with her brother and let him know about his father. Through social media searching, she learned Ed lived on the New Milford green and wore a brown coat. She drove from Branford to New Milford and spotted Ed in his brown coat. He looked up and recognized her but would not get in her car. She told him their bad news and left. But she decided to go back each week with a bagged lunch and a note inside for him.
Peg Molina from New Milford social services said people in the communtiy reached out to buy him clothes.
Laura wanted to help Ed more but was told by a New Milford police officer that as long as he wasn’t hurting himself or others, Ed gets to do what he wants to do.
“Without Ed’s consent we were nowhere,” she said.
Ed was clear that he did not want help. “He prided himself on his independence,” said Laura.
People in New Milford became concerned about Ed’s physical health. He had a gash on his leg that needed treatment. He also looked like he had type 2 diabetes. The people in town put together an intervention team on October 5, 2015. Amazingly, Ed agreed to go to Danbury Hospital to have his leg looked at.
He started saying Yes to help
After cleaning up his leg, they gave Ed a psych evaluation and formally diagnosed him with schizophrenia. Since he couldn’t care for himself, they had a probate hearing and Laura became co-conservator of Ed. Ed remained at Danbury Hospital psych unit until a bed opened up for him at Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) in January of 2016.
Laura and her son brought him things to CVH like a big bag of leaves to remind him of the outdoors he so loved. They took him out on day passes to Wadsworth Falls.
Ed kept saying yes to his own recovery. He tried things like yoga. And slowly got better. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) found him transitional housing in a group home in Danbury.
A year later on the journey to recovery
Ed reconnected with his family. He bought himself a bicycle to get around town. He even got his first passport to visit Laura’s son, his nephew, at college in Canada.
Ed’s transitional housing had its funding cut by the state, so he has to move. However, he feels ready to live on his own. His conservator found an efficiency in the New Milford area and they are looking for a part-time job for him.