A few weeks ago I was driving through an intersection when I noticed a transient standing on the median with a sign asking for money. On my second pass around the area I saw the same guy step into the street against the “Don’t Walk” symbol as he walked in front of a car. That’s when I decided I was going to stop and talk with him.
I parked my car in the driveway of a gas station and waited for him to come over to the corner. I told him hi and asked to speak with him. He waved both hands in the air as he said: “Come on man. I’m starving. I’m just trying to make some money.”
I told him I wanted talk for two reasons.
The first was about walking in front of the car. The second was because someone had just taken money from the tip jar at my favorite chicken restaurant 100 yards down the street. I gave him the description of the suspect and asked if he had seen that guy walking around here.
He calmed down after hearing that and told me he liked the food at that restaurant too. He also said he hadn’t seen anyone that fit the description.
I then decided to ask him questions about how long he’d been on the street, where he grew up and where his family was. For the next 15 to 20 minutes he talked about being addicted to heroin, being homeless and not being able to walk away from living on the street. He told me where he grew up and said his mother sometimes visited him out here.
I felt bad for his mother and wondered what she had gone through over the years, yet she still drove out to visit him on the street. Based on where she lived, she had to take two different freeways to get here.
I asked him about being able to go back home for help. The man, who was in his early 30s, said he could, but he always ended up back on the street because of his addiction.
I asked how him much he spent a day on heroin. He said: “I spent $45 today and I didn’t even get high. I’m pissed.”
He then said, “I spent enough to stay well.”
We talked for a little while longer about what it’s like to have withdrawal symptoms and how he started using drugs, along with his time in jail. He had been nice to me and spoke freely about his problems so I asked, “Do you want a sandwich?”
His eyes lit up as he said, “Yes.”
“I love salami.”
I walked over to my car and got the sandwich out of my cooler. I went back to where he was and handed it to him.
He smiled as he said, “Thanks officer. What’s your name?” I told him and we said goodbye.
I drove away still thinking about his mother coming out to visit him. That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about a parent coming out to see their homeless adult child on the street. We never wonder about the families and what they sometimes go through. It’s something to think about.
Editor’s Note: John Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 (www.badge415.wordpress.com). His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for more thsn 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. BehindTheBadgeOC.com shares some of his columns.