“Thank you, sir.”
It was a simple yet heartfelt sentiment from a former Marine who lost her job and ended up homeless.
Monday afternoon, Antoinette Smith said those words to Corp. Dan Heying of the Fullerton Police Department.
Heying, one of four officers on the Fullerton PD’s Homeless Liaison Unit, was standing outside the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) to see Smith off on a one-way bus journey to Las Vegas.
Smith had a job waiting for her there, but no money to pay for the trip.
That’s where the Fullerton PD came in.
Homeless Liaison Officer Cary Tong set up the bus ride but was stuck in court Monday, so Heying filled in for him.
Tong had learned about Smith last Wednesday while attending a monthly meeting in south Orange County of homeless liaison officers from several local law enforcement agencies.
A representative from Veterans First, a non-profit based in Santa Ana, asked Tong at the meeting: “Would you be able to help a homeless veteran get to Las Vegas?”
Smith, who is in her mid-30s, recently had been laid off from her job in a residential care facility. She has a brother in Orange County but they are not on speaking terms, Heying said. She has no other family, he added.
Smith bounced around with friends for about a month before receiving the Greyhound ticket from the Fullerton PD, which works with the non-profit Coast to Coast Foundation to get homeless people the help they need.
Tong considered purchasing a $74 Southwest Airlines ticket for Smith, but the bus ride was much cheaper — $30.
Smith was allowed two bags, but showed up at ARTIC with three.
Heying whipped out his personal credit card to pay the extra $10 charge.
Smith’s bus left at 3:20 p.m. Monday.
Said Heying: “It felt good, especially to help out a veteran who has given so much in the service of our country.”