Missing 13-year-old found in Poulsbo; discovered in library

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

POULSBO — A 13-year-old boy missing from his Port Angeles home since Oct. 3 has been found safe in Poulsbo.

Joshua Gershon, who had been reported as a runaway by his adoptive father, Otto Gershon, was discovered frequenting the Poulsbo branch of the Kitsap Regional Library on Friday evening, Otto Gershon said in an email.

The Poulsbo library is roughly 58 miles from the Gershons' home in east Port Angeles.

Joshua had been in the Poulsbo area for the past few weeks, Gershon said, sleeping in bushes, doing odd jobs to get money for food and spending time at the library.

Gershon said Poulsbo library staff became concerned about how frequently Joshua was there and contacted Hope in Christ Ministries, which specializes in helping homeless youths.

The ministry sent Jason Tompkins, a youth outreach worker with the ministry's “Coffee Oasis” program, who spent hours with Joshua providing him advice until Joshua trusted Tompkins enough to give Tompkins his home phone number, Gershon said.

Tompkins called Gershon at about 7 p.m. Friday from the Coffee Oasis outreach center in Bremerton and told him that Joshua had been found safe, Gershon said.

“I admit, I was stunned to hear [Tompkins] say that he was with Joshua,” Gershon said.

After discussions with the Clallam County Sheriff's Office on Friday night, Gershon said officers from the Bremerton Police Department transferred Joshua to Clallam County's Secure Crisis Residential Center in Port Angeles.

“Joshua will most likely be returning home this weekend after all things are cleared,” Gershon said Saturday.

Poulsbo police had received word from Poulsbo library staff about a boy matching Joshua's description at about 1 p.m. Friday, Poulsbo Police Officer Shawn Ziemann said, but did not arrive in time to confirm the boy as Joshua.

“I guess we missed him by about five, 10 minutes,” Ziemann said.

The library staff member who thought she might have seen Joshua initially called Poulsbo police Thursday, Ziemann said, and told them she had starting seeing the boy matching Joshua's description at the library last week.

Police told her to call back as soon as she saw the boy again, Ziemann said.

She did.

In a Saturday morning interview, Gershon said Joshua, who had only $6, made his way east via public transit and ended up in Poulsbo after crossing the Hood Canal Bridge via bus.

“I don't think he knows the area,” Gershon said. “He just headed east.”

On Saturday, Joshua was at the Secure Crisis Residential Center, where he was being interviewed by a social worker to assess his mental and emotional states.

The interview also was meant to help determine what assistance Joshua might need in the future, Gershon said, and is a chance for a third party to speak with Joshua without family members present, which is a safety precaution.

“It's geared very specifically for the individual child and family circumstances,” he said.

Gershon said he is incredibly grateful to everyone involved in the search and was specifically thankful for the way the Clallam County Sheriff's Office handled the situation.

Gershon said he worked closely with the Sheriff's Office about publicly releasing the details of Joshua's running away, adding that the case was passed to sheriff's detectives and made public within 12 hours of Gershon stressing that since no trace of him had been found since Oct. 3, it was cause for serious worry.

The Sheriff's Office issued a news release two weeks after the boy was reported missing.

“I think it worked out perfectly for our present circumstances,” Gershon said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 27. 2012 6:27PM
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