The woman sitting in the lobby of the police station in Hyattsville last week had a suitcase, three garbage bags full of clothes, a diaper box and a stroller. A victim of domestic violence, the woman with a 1-year-old girl recently became homeless.
“She said she had nowhere to go and she had all these bags,” said Prince George’s County Cpl. Ché Atkinson.
So Atkinson spent last Wednesday on the phone trying to reach social workers and members of her family who could help. He left the woman on the phone with an agency when he ran out to run some calls, and she was gone by the time he returned. Atkinson assumed she had arranged shelter and left.
But when he came back to work the next morning, she was back in the lobby.
“I see her laying out there on the chairs with her baby,” Atkinson said. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Did she stay out here with the baby?’ ”
It turns out the woman wouldn’t have a place to stay until the following Friday, the soonest family members were available to pick her up. Knowing it would be another night until the woman had housing, Atkinson and his supervisor chipped in to get them a hotel room for the night, along with some food and water.
“I have two kids and it just hit me knowing that they slept out there,” Atkinson said. “I felt bad because you know with all this drama she was going through, the baby was getting dragged through it too.”
Atkinson’s story has struck a chord on social media, with the police department’s Facebook post about his actions generating more than 14,000 likes and roughly 3,400 shares. But Atkinson said what he did wasn’t special. It is simply part of the work police officers do on a daily basis.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do for her child and her,” Atkinson said.