With sweltering summer temperatures, the last thing any of us want to know is that there is a homeless newborn with unsheltered parents living in a nearby ravine. Such was the case before the HOPE team arrived at the scene in Highland mid–July — one of the hottest months of the year.
“We received a tip from a local homeless lady whom we had established trust with over the course of many months,” said Mike Jones, lead officer of HOPE, which stands for the Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement. ‘The lady said there was a little baby living in a riverbed in Highland.”
HOPE deputies were on their daily beat of checking on homeless folks throughout the county when they received the tip and immediately went to the area described to them.
As the temperature hovered over 100 degrees, deputies found the family in a secluded area with water and shade. The mother, who had been living outdoors ever since her release from the hospital seven days earlier, had the basic necessities to care for the child and a battery-operated cooling system for the infant, according to a press release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
A bit of research and a lot of quick action led to the HOPE team finding out that the family had been working with KEYS, an affiliated nonprofit of San Bernardino County and the Housing Authority.
The mother of the child (who wishes to remain anonymous), like many in this region, struggled with housing affordability issues, had been unable to secure housing and had zero options related to housing stabilization.
The HOPE team connected the family back into the KEYS (Knowledge and Education for Your Success) system, where they were placed in a shelter.
This year’s San Bernardino County Point in Time count showed a 23 percent increase in homelessness countywide. With rising housing costs, little affordable housing stock and affordability issues for low-income workers, according to experts, the problem expected to continue to grow.
The HOPE team was originated as a brainchild of Sheriff John McMahon, who wanted to create a unit focused on connecting resources.