Hemet Police, Valley Restart reunite homeless woman with lost family

Living on the streets was a way of life for North Carolina woman stranded in the Valley for years

Photo by City of Hemet Police Department
Carrying little more than a giant coffee mug and a plastic bag with her personal belongings, Ladonna waves goodbye to Hemet for the last time before boarding a bus for the 53-hour trip home to North Carolina.

■ Lt. Eric Dickson / Contributed

Editor’s Note: The following story of hope and success is an example of one of the newer approaches that the Hemet Police Department is taking in 2018 to help restore the city to the clean, safe community for which it has been known for so many years. The last name of the individual at the center of the story has been withheld out of respect for her privacy.

The Hemet Police Department’s Restoring Our Community Strategy (ROCS) team, along with Valley Restart, have reunited one of Hemet’s chronically homeless residents with her long-lost family in North Carolina.
Ladonna had been living on the streets of Hemet for almost five years and was well known to many residents and officers. ROCS team detectives have been offering her assistance since the team’s launch late last year and were looking for a more permanent solution for her.

Photo by City of Hemet Police Department
Grateful for the chance to return home, Ladonna, gives members of the ROCS team a big hug before departing for North Carolina.

ROCS learned that Ladonna came to Hemet six years ago from North Carolina. She eventually became stranded and began living on the streets. ROCS detectives had been working with police departments in North Carolina in an attempt to locate Ladonna’s family but were initially unsuccessful.
On June 21, however, detectives made a breakthrough. After numerous attempts, they finally made contact with a family member who told them they had lost touch with her and had been desperately looking for her. Ladonna’s family was thankful that she had been found. The family told detectives they would welcome her back if transportation for her could be arranged.
The ROCS team reached out to Valley Restart and were told they would provide bus transportation to North Carolina for Ladonna if she were willing to accept it. Detectives from the ROCS team were able to locate Ladonna and she agreed that she was ready to be helped. According to the team, she made it safely to the bus stop and checked in ready to travel. On June 26, she arrived back home to be reunited with her family in North Carolina.
In an effort to provide long-term assistance to the city’s homeless, the ROCS team has been building bridges with local and county resources, such as Valley Restart, United Way, The Department of Public Social Services, Anchor in Christ, and Liberty Ranch, to name a few. The team helps people who are willing to accept that help. For those who are not ready, the ROCS team still enforces the law to ensure that law-abiding citizens are protected.

Following is a snapshot of the ROCS team activity since its launch late last year:
• Eight people helped to return home.
• Eleven people helped off the streets and into some form of housing.
• Twelve nuisance properties have been identified and the city is compelling the owners to clean them up.
• Five firearms have been recovered.
• More than 100 grams of illegal drugs seized.
• More than $1,200 recovered from drug dealers.
• Arrests are averaging about 100 per month.

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