HAYWARD, California — A sheriff’s deputy was about to cite a homeless man for panhandling in Hayward, but when the two men started talking the deputy decided to help him out instead.
Panhandler Michael Myers described the first time he met Alameda County sheriff’s deputy Jacob Swalwell at a freeway off-ramp in Hayward.
Myers said Deputy Swallwell told him: “You can’t be on this freeway anymore and I’m going to write you a ticket.”
Swalwell described the day he met Myers.
“I finally told myself, ‘I’m going to go out there and write him a citation for the panhandling,’” he said.
But instead of writing that ticket, Swalwell struck up a conversation with him.
“I started to get to know more about him and I realized he didn’t need a citation, he needed someone to help him,” Swalwell said.
Swalwell said Myers wasn’t what he expected. Myers didn’t have a criminal record or substance abuse problem. He had even tried to get himself off the streets.
“He told me, ‘no, you don’t understand. I’ve done it before. I get turned away. I’ve applied for benefits before, but I don’t have ID so I can’t get any assistance,'” Swalwell said.
Swalwell decided to help.
The first step was helping Myers get his birth certificate — something he’d never even seen before.
“I thought I was born Michael Myers, but according to my birth certificate, my name is Gordon Myers,” he said.
Michael is actually his middle name.
The next step was trying to prove he’s a resident of California.
“I’m homeless,” Myers said, emphasizing the difficulty of proving residency.
A letter from a church and another from the sheriff’s department met that requirement.
And after more than four trips to the DMV over the past month-and-a-half, Myers finally got the one thing that could help get him off the streets: his California ID card.
“If it’s something as simple as helping them just to get them back on their feet by getting them an ID so they can get some state or government, federal benefits, then it’s the least we can be doing as law enforcement officers,” Swalwell said.
But both men said they gained even more from their interaction.
“We both realized at the same time that there is a real person there and not just the stereotype we saw when we first met each other,” Myers said.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it’s now trying to work with lawmakers and the DMV to help streamline the process for the homeless to get an ID card.
Gordon Michael Myers says now that he has an ID, he can finally get a job and an apartment.