Addressing Homelessness with our HOPE Teams: Mia's Story

homeless encampment

When the City Council authorized new HOPE teams to assist with homelessness, I saw the value and was successful in getting the first team assigned to the Valley.  These teams work with our homeless community, Sanitation, LAHSA, and together they develop relationships which are helping to get many homeless people off the streets and into the services they need.  I was heartened to read about Mia’s story, shared with us by LAPD:

On November 9th, my partner Ofcr Jacobson and I, Ofcr Garza, responded to a request for a HOPE unit at the corner of 14200 Ventura Blvd. Upon arrival my partner and I met with Mia B. She began to tell us that she was interested in turning her life around and wanted to get into rehab. Mia began to tell us the story that leads to her becoming homeless. She was working in the movie industry doing costume make up. She said one day she started having bad stomach pain. When she went to the doctor they informed her she had a severe stage of bladder cancer. She began going through treatment for the cancer and was eventually forced to quit her job and move in with her mom and step dad. While she was living with her parents she was able to successfully beat the cancer and was placed in remission. She just had to continue taking medication to help with the after effects from the cancer. She then had a major falling out with her family when she went to confide in her mother that her step dad was making advances toward her. She said her family all sided with her step dad and she was then kicked out of her mother’s house. She said she was so upset with her family that she then chose to stay on the street instead. While she was living on the street she was unable to afford her medication, so when the pain became so bad, an unknown person introduced her to Heroin. She said from that moment she was hooked. I asked Mia how much she used and she said that she used heroin every morning and every evening. During our contact with Mia I was able to reach out to her sister who lives in San Jose.  Her sister then told me that last year, her family staged an intervention to get Mia into rehab and Mia refused to go. So when I told her Mia was ready and willing to go she was skeptical about her motive this time around. I allowed her sister to speak to Mia and hear the sincerity in her voice. After their conversation her sister was convinced that Mia was telling the truth and that we needed to capitalize on her willingness.  By the end of that day, we were unable to get Mia into rehab. We had reached out to the rehab center that Mia`s family found for her in Newport Beach but we did not have approval to bring Mia down yet. My partner and I told Mia that we would locate her the next day and by that point we would have an answer as to where we could take her. On November 10th my partner went searching for Mia and was not able to locate her. We searched for Mia numerous times on the following working days and we could not locate her. During the time we were searching for Mia her sister called us to inform us that she was able to secure Mia a spot in the original detox center they used to do her intervention. She also said that the center was going to give Mia a scholarship so that it would cost her and her family nothing.

On November 17th my partner and I decided to run Mia and see if she had possibly been arrested. The search returned that Mia was arrested on November 16th for Grand Theft. We pulled the report and the report stated she had numerous credit cards and her case was being handled by the Valley Forgery unit. My partner and I went to speak with detectives, all of us discussed Mia`s case and possible outcomes. At the end of our discussion, all agreed that the best thing was for Mia to go to rehab. The detectives signed off for Mia to be released to my partner and I. My partner and Senior Lead Officer Paschal transported Mia to the detox center in Newport Beach. Mia had only one request and that was for us to find her dog “Gizmo” and give her to her family. On November 21, 2016 my partner and I, followed through with our promise and located Gizmo and gave her to Mia`s cousin.

Response from family

Good evening, Sergeant Padilla.

I am writing to recognize two of your officers, Keith Jacobson and Cory Garza, for going above and beyond to help my sister get off the streets. My sister has been struggling with addiction and homelessness for several years.  My family and I made several attempts to get her into rehab with no success.  It wasn't until your officers met her and offered her help, did she finally accept.  They were in contact with me and worked with me every step of the way to make sure she was placed in the best environment for her recovery.  They were patient as I worked to iron out all the details and even took my calls when they were no longer on the clock.  I am very grateful that you have these two men as part of your team.  Keith and Cory are truly assets, and I am thankful there are people like them who care about the people who can't afford to care for themselves.