On Dec. 28th, 2021, Street Sense Media vendor Chad Jackson passed away at the age of 46. Jackson, a military veteran who suffered from chronic homelessness, left behind five children: Kiara, age 26, Chad Jr., age 23, Cameron, age 19, Charlie, age 18, and Destiny, age 16. Jackson was never able to meet his first grandchild, a boy named Kalani, born just the day before Jackson passed away.
Born in Queens, New York, on September 26th, 1975, Jackson was an outgoing, charismatic and talkative youth, his mother, Sharron Jackson, said.
“He brought an energy to any room that he walked into,” she said. “He was uplifting. And I’m not saying that because he was my son. That’s just who he was.”
That liveliness and vivaciousness extended well into his adult years, as well.
“Everybody knew him for being a funny guy,” said Brandy Shorts, the mother of Jackson’s oldest son. “He always had a story to tell you.”
But beyond that lighthearted playfulness, there was an intense earnestness to him, too.
Growing up, he was extremely protective of his younger sister, Bethany.
“Guys couldn’t talk to her, they couldn’t look at her, they couldn’t date her,” Jackson’s mother said.
He was also a driven and passionate dancer throughout his youth. He performed regularly in school talent shows and, throughout high school, did several gigs as a backup dancer. He was even part of a trio of dancers starring in a commercial that aired in the Tampa, Florida market.
Jackson graduated from high school at the age of 17 and, deciding that he was done with school, went on to join the U.S. Navy. During his time in service, he was a welder aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Independence.
After a few years of serving in the Navy, Jackson came back home to the U.S. sometime in the mid-nineties.
Upon returning home, he soon entered into what became a very difficult period of his life, according to his loved ones
Jackson “just kind of drifted” from job to job, his mother said
He was soon diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. He struggled with alcoholism, too.
His untreated mental health disorders, according to Sharron Jackson, was what led her son to enter into a period of chronic homelessness.
While living on the streets, Jackson was charged with possession after dealing drugs and was sentenced to several years in prison.
But throughout his years of struggle and turmoil while homeless, Jackson stayed in touch with his mother and father. He talked to his father, Keith Jackson, on a regular basis. In recent years, before Chad Jackson died, they spoke once or twice a week.
Jackson never ended a conversation with his parents without saying “I love you,” his mother said.
Jackson also loved to read, his mother said. He was an especially big fan of James Patterson’s Alex Cross series.
The same day that Jackson died, she sent him a book in the mail. It was Will Smith’s new memoir and autobiography, “Will.”
“Will’s description of himself and his life reminded me of Chad in multiple ways,” his mother said.
It may have been motivational for Jackson to read how Smith, “someone much like himself,” was able to overcome the many obstacles and setbacks in his life, Sharron Jackson said.
“I thought it would be encouraging for him,” she said.
But Jackson’s life is a source of inspiration in its own right.
Despite chronic homelessness and various mental health illnesses that, left untreated, became an increasing source of pain and adversity for Jackson over time, he never lost his singular capacity to love with an uncompromising resolve, those closest and dearest to him said.
“Chad was very loving and had a good heart, and most of all he loved his kids,” said Brandy Shorts.
“He may have been homeless, and all of that,” said his mother, “but he was very sensitive and had a heart of gold.”