FRESNO, CA (KSEE) - A mother finds her son passed out in the streets of Fresno. She says he's a drug addict, and the photos she took of her own son's current state have now been shared thousands of times.
Michelle Garcia is a professional photographer but she never thought she'd take photos of her son, homeless and on drugs and she's making the compelling pictures public to send a powerful message.
Like many, Michelle Garcia grabs her morning coffee before work but at the same time, she checks to see if her son Michael will be there.
"He knows that this is where I come in the morning," said Garcia.
A couple weeks ago, Garcia found the 20-year-old passed out on the sidewalk outside a Kuppa Joy coffee house. She captured the moment to show him what he'd become but another photo taken last April, shows who Garcia calls the real Michael. He looks healthy and Garcia says he had a full time job and his own apartment. But an unexpected breakup led him to drug use.
"And then once he started smoking crack, he started...it started evolving," said Garcia.
By November of 2017, Michael chose to live on the streets, fueling his addiction to meth and heroin.
"And I don't care how dirty he is. I don't care how much he smells. I hug that kid so tight, I don't even care," said Garcia.
Flindt Andersen, founder of Parents and Addicts in Need, says drug addicts are solely focused on getting high. He's shocked by Michael's deterioration.
"I mean this was a handsome young man who went from that photograph to now what he looks like. And it's heartbreaking," said Andersen.
His mother says she's tried to get him help several times. Now her contact with Michael is limited to this coffee shop. She's worried he'll end up dead.
"He's such a bright light and to watch his light dim, it's just been gut wrenching," said Garcia.
According to the California Department of Public Health, there were 39 deaths in Fresno due to opioid related overdoses in 2017.
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