San Bernardino County sheriff's HOPE program connects homeless population with services, support

SAN BERNARDINO (KABC) -- The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has created a program to link the homeless population with resources and service providers throughout the county.

For those who feel they have nothing, they are learning each day with the help of HOPE.

HOPE stands for Homeless Outreach and Proactive Enforcement.

Eyewitness News spent the day with San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Jones of the HOPE team. He spends his days not making arrests, but making connections with the homeless, like Darlene Betts.

"Have you tried for SSI or no?" Jones asked.

"I did once and they denied it, I gotta go back and see the doctor again," Betts answered.

"Because there's also a group that will try to help you get your SSI," Jones said.

"We want to get to know them and then we try to guide them," he added.

There's no shortage of organizations trying to provide service to the homeless, but navigating the red tape can be daunting.

Getting help to those in need is a challenge because many are constantly on the move, but getting them to accept the help is often even more difficult.

Jones estimates he will make contact with someone 70 times before that person will accept the help that will get them off the streets.

The HOPE team has documented over 8,000 contacts since January of 2014 and 2,000 of those people were eventually housed.

A critical piece of the puzzle is that of documentation.

A smartphone app allows the HOPE team to get the person in need loaded into the system, and when help is available, the app makes it easier to find them quickly based on last contact.

Ricky was found in a remote area to let him know housing will soon be available.

"Wherever this program came from, you know it makes me emotional, because I've been down and out for quite a while. But I kind of like, see the light, you know?" Ricky said.

Norm Mikalsen was one of the first people the HOPE team contacted and it took years before he finally accepted housing, thanks in large part to the team's persistence.

Now, he's ready to give back.

"I'm enjoying it. And I still go back to the homeless people and talk to them. Hopefully by me getting the help I get maybe I can lift somebody out of there," Mikalsen said.

It's not an overnight fix, but until there is one, there's always HOPE in San Bernardino.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.