Cary Tong has been thinking a lot about trains, planes and automobiles.
That’s because he and other Fullerton Police officers who work on the four-member Homeless Liaison Unit have twice this week successfully helped needy folks get to where they need to go to start new lives.
On Tuesday evening, Tong and Officer Mike McCaskill were making their rounds with volunteers from the nonprofit Coast to Coast Foundation, which helps provide food, clothing and shelter in Fullerton, when they met a woman who had been homeless for 16 days.
Seana Smith, 48, showed up at a weekly dinner for needy people at the Fullerton Transportation Center that is hosted by First Christian Baptist Church in the City of Walnut.
Smith had found her way to the weekly dinner by word of mouth after her fortunes went south when a promised job at a Christian TV station in Costa Mesa failed to materialize.
The native of New York had no money and no clue where her next meal would come from.
Then she met Tong and McCaskill.
The officers, who had been interviewing people waiting in line for food, met Smith around 7 p.m.
They soon found out she had a daughter living in San Angelo, Texas.
Smith’s daughter agreed to take her in, but Smith had no money to get to the Lone Star State.
Tapping city funds earmarked to help the homeless, Tong purchased a one-way Greyhound bus ticket for Smith for $219.
He accompanied her to Santa Ana to catch her bus at 5 p.m. Wednesday and see her off for the 31-hour journey to Texas.
Tong also gave her a couple of McDonald’s gift cards.
“Thank you for all your help,” Smith told Tong before she hopped on the bus leaving Orange County. “God bless you.”
Smith was scheduled to arrive at her daughter’s house around midnight Thursday.
Then, on Wednesday evening, a 43-year-old woman walked into the FPD station asking for help. She had been teetering on the brink of homelessness.
Three years ago, Valinda Boyd, 43, of Ohio, had come to Riverside to take a marketing job.
But after Boyd didn’t get paid for working her first month on the job, she left her motel in Riverside and came to Anaheim after finding a room to rent on Craigslist.
Boyd found steady part-time work through an employment agency and was barely getting by.
She recently lost her car, and thus her ability to work, when it got towed for not having current registration tags.
Boyd was due to be kicked out of her room the day after Thanksgiving when she met Tong on Wednesday night.
“What if I could get you on the first bus or train or plane back to Ohio?” Tong asked Boyd.
After confirming that a cousin would take her in, Tong purchased a one-way plane ticket for Boyd for $218.
The plane departs from LAX at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
Boyd has no money to get to the airport.
So Tong will wake up Sunday, his day off, at around 5 a.m., drive Boyd to the airport and send her on her way.
Said Tong of his busy, and gratifying, week: “It makes me feel good to be able to send these people home so they can be with their families.”
In the photo at the top of this story, Fullerton Police Officers Cary Tong and Mike McCaskill are shown with Seana Smith. Photo courtesy of FPD.