San Bernardino County sees success getting homeless off streets

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A program to get homeless people off the streets is a big success in San Bernardino County.

The first question that deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department homeless outreach team ask is: "How did you find yourself out on the street?"

The answers are different, but the goal is the same.

"We make contact with the homeless who may not know where to go to get services or how to get connected with services," said Detective Reggie Pahia, who is part of the HOPE team.

Two years ago, the HOPE team was created as part of a campaign promise by Sheriff John McMahon to address homelessness in the county. Not an easy task in the beginning, the three-man team needed to break down barriers and earn some trust.

"They were used to being arrested or having their items confiscated. So we showed we have compassion and a passion for getting people off the streets and moving them beyond homelessness," Pahia said.

In Rancho Cucamonga Thursday, they helped a 49-year-old man get back into a rehab program. Then there was Linda. She learned she didn't have to give up her dog Bella to find a place to stay.

"Everybody says to give her away, but I just can't do it," she said.

So far, the program has helped find housing for more than 200 homeless men and women. One of its primary goals is to end veteran homelessness.

The latest success happened three days ago when deputies spotted a 69-year-old man sitting in a park.

"When they contacted him, he was on a piece of cardboard. He looked elderly. He looked like he needed help and in their eyes, he could have been a veteran," said Sgt. Matt Yost of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy makes contact with Jack Reilley after spotting him at a park.

The man was identified as Jack Reilley, a combat veteran who earned five medals of valor during the Vietnam War. Once a successful business owner, he lost interest in life and took up drinking after his wife died.

Today, Reilley is in a hotel and applying for services through Social Security and the VA.

"It was hard to accept help because I had spent my life helping others," Reilley said.

The team has been so successful they are now looking to expand the HOPE program by adding more deputies in the hopes of reaching more homeless in the county.
Related Topics:
societyhomelessveteranssan bernardino county sheriff's departmentSan BernardinoSan Bernardino County
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