Santa Ana officer helps homeless mother, children find home

March 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Latoya Dennis is grateful to Santa Ana police Cpl. Michael Kuplast, who met the 29-year-old and her children just one week ago.

Police saw Dennis sitting with her 7-year-old son Armond and 12-year-old daughter Diamond on a park bench, and learned that they were homeless.

Dennis says her family was forced on the street several weeks ago, and her savings was drained by her daughter's medical bills to treat a rare condition.

Dennis also said while using a park restroom in Santa Ana, a man tried to rape her. Police soon made an arrest, but their involvement didn't end there.

Kuplast is part of what's called a Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team, or HEART.

"We're a team of officers that respond to homeless people to evaluate and assess," he said.

Over the past year officers have identified nearly 400 homeless people living in Santa Ana's civic center area. The team finds services to help those in need.

"It's been devastating because I've never been in this situation before," Dennis said.

Her children also struggled with being on the street.

"Me and my brother have been really lonely because we feel like no other children are going through this," said Diamond Moore.

But thanks to Kuplast, Dennis and her children found hope.

"We had to get them enrolled in school, there were a lot of hurdles we had to go though to help her move smoothly forward," he said.

Through HEART, police find people temporary shelter while they work with other agencies and non-profits on a more permanent solution.

In just five months, the HEART program has been able to find stable housing for 30 people, and Dennis and her kids joined that list when they checked out their two bedroom apartment in Irvine.

Dennis is getting help from Orange County Housing to cover the $1600 a month rent. She's overwhelmed.

"I was just outside last week and I didn't have anywhere to go, and to walk into this home right now is just man..." she said, trailing off into tears.


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