Memoir shows homelessness in Merrill through the eyes of a child

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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) -- Author Jim Finucan is telling the world what it's like for a child to experience a parent struggling with homelessness.

Jim Finucan reads a passage of his book to a packed room at the T.B. Scott Library (WSAW Photo).

His book "Wild Counselor: 1977-- the Summer of the Hunt" reflects on his father's time on the streets of Merrill, told from the perspective of his 11-year-old self.

He held a talk Sunday at the T.B. Scott Library to discuss how homelessness touched his family.

"I grew together with him, and we had a great friendship at this time," Finucan said.

He reflects fondly on the summer of 1977 with his father. But that summer was hard for his family.

"He was an attorney at one point, and sort of had a mental breakdown, emotional breakdown," he said.

That's how Finucan's father ended up on the streets of Merrill.

"I wrote this book hoping to open the door of understanding to people who might suffer from the homeless condition, and understand that a lot of it is due to mental illness," he said.

The author says this book is very much about growing up in Merrill in the 1970s, with some scenes even taking place in the library where he gave the talk. And while institutions like the library remain in Merrill, many aspects of homelessness look very different than they did back then.

"There weren't a lot of the medications that there are for people who suffer from mental illness. Also, the very fact that we have a MAC Home here in town, that was something we didn't have back then," he said.

Theresa Anthoney, Executive Director of the Merrill Community Homeless Center (MAC Home), says homeless people still struggle with the same stigmas and barriers to resources as they did in the past.

"To get people to access those resources is another story. So we still fight the same fight. As I was reading it I could see a lot of what my clients are going through," Anthoney said. She added that it helped understand how some of the children she works with are processing what they see, since 20% of the MAC Home’s population are children.

Some of the book's proceeds will go to the newly opened home.

"When he said that a lot of the proceeds of the book come straight to MAC home, it was wonderful. He's already donated a thousand dollars," she said.

"This is somebody's father, this is somebody's son. It could be anybody," Finucan said.

To purchase a copy of “Wild Counselor,” click here . For more information about the MAC home, click here .