Last week BART Customer Services received this note thanking two of our BART Police Officers who patrol Powell Street Station and who helped a homeless man named Alfonso. Continue reading after the note to learn more about how our officers went about helping Alfonso.
(BART received permission to share this note and story)
“I want to let Kenton Rainey, Chief of Police, and the Deputy Chief over Officer Jones and Officer Touye know how much me and my family appreciate everything they have done for my dad. He has been homeless living in the Subway for years, and no one in our family even knew if he was still alive. They opened their hearts and researched him to find his family and get ahold of us and see if they could help him in any way. Within a week of talking to them, they were able to find him a bed, place to stay, and get him into a detox program that he desperately needed. They did all of this while doing their regular duties as an officer. It will be completely up to my dad on whether or not he wants to continue this path of sobriety and bettering his life, but if it wasn’t for these two officers, he never would’ve had this last chance at life. My family can’t thank them enough for their kindness. You have some great people working for you. Thank you all.”
Alfonso is one of the regular homeless individuals that comes around Powell Street Station. Officers David Touye and Dan Jones had made periodic contact with Alfonso and offered him assistance in seeking services. He would always decline, but little by little, offered up tidbits about his background. Our officers used this information to find his family with the hope they could help fill in the blanks about his life and offer advice on what could motivate Alfonso to get help. Our officers were able to connect with his out of state sister and daughters. They explained the tale of two Alfonso’s, one, a loving Dad who coached his daughter’s softball team to championship and the other, a not so pretty picture involving drugs, alcohol, and a bitter divorce.
The family was relieved to hear he was still alive. They explained how they would read obituaries fearing they would see his name. Our officers asked his family if they could tell Alfonso they spoke. The family agreed and when the officers were in contact with Alfonso on a particularly rough day, they told him how they had spoken to his daughters and how he now has two grandsons. He brightened up and was moved by hearing about his girls and the life they are living. The officers asked him again if he was willing to seek services, and for the first time, he replied “yes.” They scrambled to find him a bed for the night, reaching out to San Francisco’s Homeless Outreach Team. Luckily, The Walden House in San Francisco said they would take him but he needed to come that very night. He went, but unfortunately in a matter of days, our officers saw Alfonso back at Powell- he wasn’t sober. But they are not giving up. Even though Alfonso wasn’t ready this time they are going to keep trying because it’s their job and because one of these days he may finally want it for himself.
BART is actively working to find ways to handle the complex situation involving people who seek refuge in downtown San Francisco stations. At Powell Street Station alone last year BART Police made 149 community outreach safety enforcement field interviews. Many of these contacts are with the same repeat and chronic offenders.
The approach is to find permanent housing and treatment for each of them. These contacts are essential in developing a positive relationship and working towards getting individuals into services. BART is one of the few transit agencies with a dedicated full-time outreach and crisis intervention coordinator who provides vital referral service and training for officers in this area.
97% of eligible BART Police personnel have received Crisis Intervention Training and BART is also working on developing a partnership with San Francisco’s Homeless Outreach Team to engage chronically homeless individuals and help them in establishing care and permanent housing.