They were two men who had no money, no homes, not much more than the clothes on their backs. Now police have no explanation why Mike Lawson and Mike Nolen Junior were found dead at the bottom of a manhole Tuesday, near the Taylor Street viaduct.
“To hurt them and throw them in a hole, that's not right. It's not one bit right!” exclaims Richard Shireman, a friend of both men from Hope Rescue Mission.
Both men were frequent guests of the mission. “Mike, he just couldn't be confined,” Shireman recalls. “He didn't like being in one place had to keep on moving. Both Mikes were that way.”
The homeless men had family in this area. According to police, Nolen Junior's family reported him missing and a search party looked in abandoned buildings where the pair was known to stay.
The East Race River is the last place Michael Nolen Junior was supposed to be a week before Christmas when he disappeared. A homeless friend says they were going to watch out for each other when they slept that night on park benches, but Nolen never showed up.
It can be hard for families to understand why their loved one would choose to stay on the streets. “Every man, every woman whether they're here as a resident, whether they come in for weather amnesty, whether they come in to eat a meal...that person is somebody's brother or sister. That person is somebody's child or grandchild,” explains Clyde Manning, public relations director for Hope Rescue Mission.
These deaths have compelled some local homeless people to reevaluate their lives. “You’ve got to change your life,” says Jim Hollemen try to find a job and get off the streets.”
Others wonder how safe they are on the streets of South Bend, even when they stick together. “I hope they find the person who did this and punish them to the fullest extent of the law,” says Shireman, “because to do a homeless person like that, that's not right.”