Several years ago, Jim Pendleton served his country in the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, life events caused Jim to become homeless. For the last 13 years, Jim called the San Gabriel Valley River in Azusa his home. He's lived through the rain storms, wildland fires, flooding, vicious animals, and winds with little to no shelter.
The Department's HALO Program
Over the past year, the Azusa Police Department has worked hard at creating a unique program for addressing homeless issues within our community. With the assistance and support of Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, a select group of officers have been assigned to implementing and managing the program, which is known as the HALO program inside the department.Although the term HALO stands for "Homeless Assistance Liaison Officer," some would say these officers are wearing halos.
A few months ago, Corporal Andy Rodriguez and Officer Kyle Bailey worked with the Department of Veteran's Administration and the Rotary of Covina's Field of Valor, to relocate another veteran, James Kitto, from the riverbed. After being screened through the VA's HUD-VASH program, Kitto was moved into an apartment to start his new life.
Building Trust Among Veterans
Unfortunately, some individuals want to take advantage of our homeless veterans, by promising them a new life with new accommodations, clothes, and food, providing they pay a deposit first. These scammers do not make good on their promises, and our veterans quickly learn to distrust anyone, from any organization.
As the HALO program progresses in helping the homeless veteran's of our community, we are building trust through the positive words spread by veterans such as Kitto. That's what happened with Pendleton.
Kitto notified Dominic Lopez, who is a Social Science Technician for the Department of Veteran's Administration in West Los Angeles, about Pendleton's situation.
Through Kitto and Lopez' work, they were able to move Pendleton out of the riverbed finally, and he signed a lease for his first apartment here in Azusa. Pendleton moved in on August 21, 2016, however, the mission was not over for Lopez.
Some Things Taken For Granted
Pendleton had shelter and was now sleeping at night in a sleeping bag on the carpet in his apartment. What he was lacking were items we probably all take for granted. From linens and towels to a simple spatula, Pendleton didn't have much.
Lopez reached out to Linda Logan of Covina Rotary Field of Valor. This project is supported through the generosity of businesses and individuals in the community, in which funds are raised and provided to assist veterans in need. When Logan learned of Pendleton's situation, she immediately went to work to find a way to make Pendleton's life easier.
Christmas Came Early
On Thursday, September 1, 2016, officers from the Azusa Police Department, along with Lopez, Logan and a handful of others arrived at Pendleton's apartment. Pendleton was expecting to meet with Lopez today, but he had no idea what was about to happen.
The team brought in bags and bags of household essentials, gift cards, and a new bed from Cost Plus Mattress in La Verne. The look on Pendleton's face was simply priceless.
After everyone had left Pendleton's apartment, Lopez stayed behind to chat with Pendleton. He told Lopez that after years of living in the riverbed, he didn't think there were any good people left. "I was wrong," said Pendleton of today's visit. Pendleton said that living in the riverbed was "hell" and that he had resigned himself to die there, before receiving help from the HALO's, VA and Field of Valor.
A Community Effort
It's partnerships between residents, business owners, the police department, and organizations such as Rotary, Field of Valor and the Veteran's Administration, which helps make our community so unique and powerful.
Are You A Homeless Veteran in Azusa?
Please reach out to any Azusa police officer and ask how to connect with the HALO officers. The men and women of the Azusa Police Department care about you and will guide you to connecting with a member of the HALO team.
If you have any information regarding this case or subjects involved in this case, please call the Azusa Police Department at (626) 812-3200. If you wish to remain anonymous, you may do so by clicking here.
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Azusa Police Department | 725 N. Alameda Avenue | Azusa, CA 91702