In the Christmas spirit: Fairfax City police help a homeless family find food, shelter

December 24, 2013

This internal memo from the Fairfax City Police Department was passed to me Monday morning, and Chief Rick Rappoport agreed to let me reprint it here. It’s a good reminder that police officers aren’t just about chasing speeders or arresting criminals, and this is hardly unique to Fairfax City. I’ve spent many years covering police, and have seen many officers helping the mentally ill, or lost kids, or hapless adults, and no one ever writes about it. This is a perfect snapshot of the kind of public service that is quietly repeated by officers around the country every day:

From: Lt. Jeffrey Hunt, Sunday Dec. 21

Fairfax City police helped a homeless family during the Christmas season, a scene which was probably quietly repeated by officers around the country. (City of Fairfax)
Fairfax City police helped a homeless family during the Christmas season, a scene which was probably quietly repeated by officers around the country. (City of Fairfax)

Today our squad came in contact with a very needy family who was trying to get a room at a local hotel. A 33-year old female was pushing around her two children (a 1½-year-old female and a 4-year-old male) around in a broken stroller. The family had only the clothes on their backs. The female child had no shoes and the kids were very hungry.

After realizing the urgency in the matter, Officers [Stephanie] Balzano and [Kyle] Bruce began obtaining food and were feeding the children as I arrived on scene. The mother explained that they had recently been evicted from their home. The homeless shelter they were staying at informed me that she was told that she would have to find another place to stay due to overcrowding.

While waiting for CPS [Child Protective Services] to respond to our phone messages, Officer Balzano continued to feed and tend to the children who were in soiled clothing. Officer Bruce began calling the mother’s relatives, who live in Massachusetts, to obtain help for the mother and her children. Detective Ronnie Lewis was just coming off of an overtime detail and was asked to respond to the scene. Detective Lewis, our [Fairfax City Police] Association vice president, rented a room at the Best Western for the family and provided $50 for food and needed items. All of the money used to help this family in crisis came from association funds that are set aside for special purposes such as these.

[Chief Rappoport said the police association is an employee group which meets regularly and does some charitable work outside work hours.]

As we continued to solve the problem, the family in Massachusetts agreed to purchase train tickets so that the family could travel to Massachusetts where they would be cared for. CPS eventually called and agreed to provide and coordinate transportation for the family to the train station.

I felt that it was important to share this information with fellow association members to inform you that together we helped a family escape a very bad situation. It is very hard to see things like this around the holidays, but it is reassuring to know that our association is always willing to step in and assist when a real need exists.

Postscript: Rappoport said the family in Massachusetts accidentally purchased train tickets for Tuesday, not Monday as intended, so Detectives Ronnie Lewis and Chris Gil and Captain Laura Kenyon worked with the family Monday to extend their stay, get them some additional food, supplies and a few toys for the kids. They’ll make sure they get to the train station Tuesday, Christmas Eve, and on their way, the chief said.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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Tom Jackman · December 23, 2013