Now, Jenkins is receiving help from the community to put up a fence at her new home in Milton to keep Howey safe.
The fence at Jenkins’s old Crestview house was chain link, and it was only about four feet high. Howey, though only 14, is over six feet tall, making it easy for him to climb over the fence. May 6 was not the first time he has left home.
“He is in sensory overload mode,” Jenkins said of her son in situations like this one. Howey will go into fight or flight mode, not understanding that leaving home is dangerous. He just wants to escape whatever is bothering him. “About a year ago…he was missing for 11 hours,” Jenkins said. “The last two times they’ve had to bring bloodhounds to find him.” According to his mom, Howey is a master of hide and seek.
On Friday, May 6, Jenkins called the Okaloosa Sheriff’s Office around 7 p.m. to report Howey missing. Jenkins was not pleased with the initial response she received from the sheriff’s office, but many citizens provided their support as well, offering tracking dogs and organizing search and rescue efforts in addition to the bloodhounds, enacted by the OCSO, that went out about a mile and half on the night of May 6.
Jenkins said 7 or 8 officers came to her home around noon on May 7, and they and the over 80 people who showed up to help continued looking for Howey. The officers began canvassing the neighborhood and asking for Ring footage from houses.
The search also went into the woods, where Jenkins said Howey is always drawn. A bloodhound pinpointed an area where Howey should be—Jenkins’s husband, who was walking along with the bloodhound, almost stepped on Howey. Howey was so well hidden in some thick brush that he was almost unable to be seen, right in his own backyard.
Howey walked a mile-and-a-half, then circled back and hid in the backyard. “It was kind of comical—now, not at the time,” Jenkins said. He showed investigators where he hid with a grin on his face—it was not a big ordeal to Howey, though his family would certainly not agree.
Now, Jenkins and her family have made the move to Milton, and they want to put up a six-foot privacy fence to keep Howey safe. The initial estimate for the fence was $4,000, but the price then jumped to double what the estimate said. For Jenkins and her husband, money is tight after putting a down payment on the house. So, she reached out the Facebook community for advice on what to do.
Her initial post about Howey’s disappearance got thousands of comments and shares, so she did something similar for ideas on where to get supplies to build a fence. A large group of people have now offered to come and help the family build the fence themselves, and a GoFundMe page has reached almost half its goal for the money needed for supplies. People all the way to Mobile and Tallahassee have shown support.
“I’m completely blown away that we have so many people,” Jenkins said. It’s a mix of people she knows, as well as total strangers who just want to help. “That wasn’t really what I was looking for or asking for, but I’m just so thankful.”
Volunteers will be going out to the family home in Milton on June 4, and Jenkins expects they can get the privacy fence built in just one day. “It’ll be a little bit of more peace of mind,” she said.