It was a busy week for the Fullerton PD’s Homeless Liaison Unit, with Officer Cary Tong securing airplane and bus fare for two adults to reunite with their families — one on the other side of the country, the other on the other side of the world.
Working with the non-profit Coast To Coast Foundation, the Fullerton PD has four full-time officers assigned to its Homeless Liaison Unit, whose mission is to achieve positive outcomes for the homeless — often by tapping city funds to transport them home to loved ones.
Tong shared details of two successful relocations this week with Behind the Badge OC.
Back to Beirut
Samir Karam came to Los Angeles a month ago looking for a job when he couldn’t find work in Beirut, whose numerous challenges include a bad economy.
But misfortune struck minutes after Karam arrived at LAX.
According to Karam, he placed two suitcases down while hailing a cab but they were stolen when he was distracted.
Gone were $1,500 in cash and other belongings, he told L.A. police. His only belongings were his passport and some clothes in a carry-on bag.
Karam spent time at homeless shelters in L.A. before ending up at the Fullerton Armory just before Christmas.
Tong met Karam there Dec. 23.
Karam, 61, told Tong he wanted to return to Beirut, where he has a wife who has breast cancer.
Tong at first tried to raise money for the flight from the general public on Coast to Coast’s web site, but that was not successful so he tapped Fullerton city funds earmarked for the homeless and secured for Karam a one-way plane ticket to Beirut that cost just under $1,000, saving $2,000 by waiting until after the holidays.
On Friday, Jan. 9, Tong drove Karam to LAX and saw him off for his 3:20 p.m. flight.
“I miss her a lot,” Karam told Tong before boarding the plane. “I feel so excited, so happy.”
Tong asked Karam what he thought of the Fullerton PD.
“The best in the world,” Karam replied.
Tong said it was fate that he happened to meet Karam.
“Where would this guy be if we had not met?” Tong said. “He’d probably end up on the streets for the rest of his time here and never get home.”
For some time, Tong has been acquainted with Barbara Goff — a woman in her late 40s who became homeless two years ago after losing a job. For a while, friends took her in. But she ended up on the streets, where Tong met her.
She told the officer she was being harassed by an ex-boyfriend.
For a while, whenever she would see Tong, Goff would ask him for gift cards to McDonald’s and for other handouts, but she didn’t seem ready to leave the streets.
About a year ago, said Tong, Goff met KC Barber, a homeless Navy veteran. The two struck up a relationship.
Goff recently told Tong that she had a cousin in Alabama who was willing to take her and Barber in, but on one condition: that the two get married first. The cousin’s husband was a pastor who had strong convictions about couples living together.
So just before Christmas, Tong secured $80 to pay for a marriage certificate for Goff and Barber.
And on Wednesday, Jan. 7, Tong picked the newlyweds up from a motel at 8 a.m. and drove them to ARTIC, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, where they took a 9:15 a.m. bus bound for Mobile, Ala.
The one-way tickets totaled $880.
Said Tong: “It was nice to see (Barbara) happy finally, get married and be able to go home to her family.”
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