La Habra police, City Net team up to help homeless family

By Elysse James

When a family of four was kicked out of their home, the community of La Habra came together to help.

The family was quickly placed in a motel with a few nights prepaid. Multiple people, including La Habra Police Lt. Dan Henderson and Patrol Officer Cameron Luitwieler, called City Net to help place the family in housing.

“All too often, people ignore those in need and assume someone else has called or offered help,” Henderson said. “I get several calls a week from city staff and the community about people who may be in need of assistance. City Net is always my first call.”

Talking about the ways they help the homeless are, from left, City Net Vice President Matt Bates, Director of Outreach and Engagement Jessica Bruce, Collaborative Case Manager David Aguirre, and Collaborative Case Manager Jos Guevara.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“The resources that City Net can bring in to help a homeless resident are what we need and we are thankful we have them as community partners,” Henderson said. “Being one of the first agencies in Orange County to partner with City Net in April of 2016, the value of having their resources just a phone call away is immeasurable.”

City Net paid for the weekend in the motel, and come Monday morning the case workers were up and running, calling local shelters to find space for a mother, father, and their two elementary school-aged children.

Luckily, beds were available at Pathways of Hope in Fullerton, a nonprofit shelter for families. By Tuesday, the family had an interview with Pathways of Hope to start the intake process.

“Our fundamental belief is that people shouldn’t be living this way and they don’t need to live this way,” City Net Vice President Matt Bates said. “The resources exist in this county to solve this problem. I know that what we’re doing is working and it’s changing lives.”

City Net Vice President Matt Bates talks about what his team does for the homeless.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Jos Guevara and David Aguirre, City Net collaborative case managers, are at the La Habra Community Resources Care Center every Wednesday to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to find housing and resources.

In this case, the stars aligned to give this family shelter quickly. Normally, the process isn’t quite so fast, Aguirre said.

“All of the resources within the city of La Habra were able to pull together to make sure this family wasn’t left on the streets for the night,” said Jessica Bruce, City Net’s director of outreach and engagement.

Collaborative Case Manager David Aguirre, left, and Collaborative Case Manager Jos Guevara talk about their work at City Net.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

La Habra is something of an outlier that way, with the La Habra Collaborative and the La Habra Faith-Based Community Group combining forces with nonprofits (such as City Net) and city agencies (such as the police department) to help those in need.

“That’s the nice thing about La Habra,” Guevara said. “Eventually you’re going to find the people who need help because everyone is looking for them and trying to find a way to set them up.”

In Orange County, more than 150 agencies are working to help the homeless and provide services, Bates said.

“The more agencies that are working together and that are communicating, the more likely you are to find the successful outcomes that you’re looking for,” Bates said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the availability of beds. The more people that you have working together, the more likely you are to find the right people to fill the right beds.”

Collaborative Case Manager David Aguirre wears an End Homelessness Together bracelet.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Too often, Bates said, the story goes like this: people lose their home and move in with a family member, but that situation doesn’t work out and they are evicted from the family home. They live out of their vehicle for a while, but without funds to keep their license and registration current, they can lose their car. Or they sell the vehicle to pay for a motel stay, but when the money runs out, they have nowhere to go but the street.

At each step, City Net employees said, it becomes harder to break the cycle of homelessness, and the despair grows deeper.

“(City Net’s work) is about giving people hope,” Aguirre said. “A lot of people will give up hope when they’re out on the streets because they’re being treated a specific way. One of the things that I enjoy is giving people hope.”

Collaborative Case Manager Jos Guevara talks about the work she and others at City Net do for the homeless.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

That was the case with this family. They lost their home and had moved in with a relative, but when that turned sour they had nowhere to turn. So, they moved into their car.

Mom and Dad tried to keep a regular routine for the children as much as possible, sending them to school every day and putting on a brave face.

“I’m glad we were able to provide them those services because you could tell that they were struggling,” Aguirre said. “They were just trying to make ends meet, trying to allow their kids to have some normalcy, and living in their car. It’s always difficult to see somebody, especially a family, in that situation. We just do the best we can to help.”

Once they got into housing, though, the family’s luck turned around.

“I spoke primarily with the mother and she was very, very happy,” Guevara said. “She was very relieved and grateful. As much as we try to help out people, they also have to be ready and willing to take that help. In the end it’ll be up to the family to really make this last.”

If you’re in La Habra and homeless or at risk of being homeless or you know of someone that can use help, call City Net at 714-451-6198.