Shannon Loveless and her family had been sleeping in their van behind Walmart for four long months. By that point, the mom-of-three had almost lost all hope. So, when she saw two cops walking towards her, she immediately feared the worst.
Loveless comes from Sacramento, California, and is the mother of two boys and one little girl. Like most parents, she probably did the very best that she could for her kids. However, in 2017 the family fell on hard times.
As a result of their circumstances, Loveless lost her home. With no other options available to her, the mother moved her beloved children into their van. And, for the following months, the vehicle served as the family’s home.
From the interview that she subsequently gave to CBS13, it seemed that the situation she’d found herself in had shattered Loveless. She appeared heartbroken to be living on the streets with her kids. And what’s worse is that she couldn’t see a way out. “There was no light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Sadly, Loveless and her family were not alone in their awful predicament. According to stats obtained by the City of Sacramento in 2017, around 3,500 people experience homelessness in the city on any given night. And more than 500 of them are people in families – just like Loveless and her children.
However, according to Joan Burke – director of advocacy at the city’s Loaves & Fishes school for homeless children – the number of kids on the streets in Sacramento could be much higher than estimates suggest. In 2016 she told The Sacramento Bee that she believes many families hide their homelessness due to fears that the authorities will take their children away.
So, with nobody to turn to, Loveless relied on food banks to feed her family. She would cook meals on an old camping stove and serve them alfresco to her children. And that’s exactly what Loveless was doing one day in December 2016 when she had a change of fortunes.
On that fateful afternoon, two sheriff’s deputies from Sacramento County were patrolling a homeless settlement not far from Loveless’ van. On their rounds, the men – Johnny Le and Tim Yee – caught sight of the family cooking outside their vehicle.
Recalling the moment when he spotted Loveless and her children, Le told CBS13, “[I] kind of choked up a little bit. To see the kids dirty and hungry, it touched me.” And without hesitation, the two cops knew that they had to help.
When Loveless saw the law enforcement officers walking towards her, however, her heart sank. “It was kind of a shock, because I didn’t know whether we were going to get in trouble or what,” she admitted.
But the mother-of-three had no need to worry. Yee and Le gifted the family some bags of groceries. They also gave Loveless’ children some toys to cheer them up. Needless to say, the deputies’ kind gesture was very warmly received by the family.
For Loveless, the encounter introduced her to a kinder, more caring aspect of law enforcement. “We only see the negative side of police officers,” she said. “So to see this side of them is really awesome.”
And the deputies were glad that they’d managed to dispel some stereotypes. “There is a softer side of us. They see this – they see the flashing red and blue lights, they look at us bad. We are there to help them and their situation,” Yee explained.
Furthermore, Yee and Le were more than happy to see the positive affect their good deed had on Loveless and her kids. “It was a completion in my heart and my partner’s heart. You know, we did something good for the family,” Le said. “I’m gonna call that day a miracle.”
Moreover, they aren’t the only cops in the area going out of their way to help the homeless community. In fact, the Sacramento Police Department has a whole unit dedicated to doing its bit to help those on the streets.
The department’s Homeless Outreach Team are in charge of finding solutions to the many problems homeless people face. With that in mind, they provide food assistance, drug and alcohol addiction treatment and long-term shelter.
Yee and Le’s actions marked the start of a change in fortunes for Loveless and her kids. That very same day, the two deputies managed to get the family a room in a motel. All of a sudden, the future started to look brighter for Loveless and her children.
Thanks to Yee and Le’s selfless gesture, the family would have a roof over their heads until social services could find them more permanent accommodation. And for that, Loveless was particularly grateful.
Arriving at the motel, she noticed all the things that she’d missed during those difficult months in her van. “Just for [the kids] to be able to have a warm place to sleep and watch cartoons, you know things that kids do, you take it for granted,” Loveless said as she fought back tears.
Now not only did Loveless have somewhere safe and warm to live, but she also had something much more important – hope. “It’s a total game-changer,” she said. “The motivation is there, the morale is there. I’m ready, let’s get this year right!”