It’s not an uncommon sight: a man down on his luck asking for help at a city bus depot. People might avoid him or give him some spare change. Either way, he’s often treated with suspicion.
Recently, a homeless man approached several Miami-Dade police officers who routinely patrol a travel hub near the city’s airport – and the situation played out much differently.
He told the officers that he and his wife and four children had recently moved from Michigan in the hopes of him finding a job as a cook, but the family had been kicked out of a relative’s home. With nowhere to go, the family of six headed to the bus depot with all of their belongings in plastic garbage bags.
“I saw his wife holding a 2-month-old, I saw the other kids and just immediately thought to myself, ‘Wow, we have to help them,’” Officer Jose DeLeon recalled.
So DeLeon and fellow officers Roberto Azcuy, Isabel Soto, Dayane Wilhelm and Scott McBath – all moms and dads, themselves – reached into their pockets and came up with nearly $200 to help the family.
Being a new mother herself, Wilhelm couldn’t fathom a newborn sleeping in the bus station.
“I had just taken out money that morning and … I just, I gave it up,” Wilhelm said through tears.
But the officers didn’t stop there. After giving the family the money from their pockets, they made some calls and found a local shelter with room for the family of six. The police officers even drove them there.
“It took three units to carry everybody and their belongings,” McBath recalled.
The man and his wife were extremely grateful and expressed their gratitude, the officers said. The family eventually made it back to Michigan with the money from the officers and assistance from the shelter.
The officers, who regularly patrol the Miami-Dade International airport and have a combined 80 years of law enforcement experience, said they see themselves as city ambassadors as well as cops.
“I don’t think (any) of us here consider ourselves heroes,” Azcuy said. “We’re doing our job. At the end of the day, that’s what we signed up for. That’s what we swore to do right in our community.”