Tampa, Florida -- Deputy Steve Donaldson's passion is not only helping the homeless get off the streets, but also helping them find a place to live and get back on their feet. Donaldson points out there's more to helping the homeless than providing a blanket or hot meal.
While those things are helpful and necessary, he goes above and beyond. When addressing the homeless and panhandling issue, he says, "We are trying to change the landscape of the streets. Ultimately, we are doing this for the benefit of the community." He adds that safety is the number one focus.
On the day we met up with Donaldson, he helped a 61-year-old formerly homeless man get to a doctor's appointment. He's helped others get glasses and helped many find a place to call home.
"He shows up and helps me with my appointments and keeps me going in the right direction," says James Vanderhoff.
Vanderhoff has seen firsthand a large number of people he has helped. "I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for him. You know, I don't think I would have made it anywhere if it wasn't for him."
Here's how Donaldson describes the homeless initiative from his blog:
The Help Cops Help Us homeless initiative is a new problem-solving model centered on the root causes of homelessness. Its philosophy rests on the fundamental human principle that people, all people, will succumb to the human trait of inevitable behavior until intrigued or compelled to act differently.
The uniformed law enforcement officer is the epicenter of the street engagement model that uses a "coupling" technique, motivating each homeless candidate that becomes accountable to a singular and persistent mortal entity -- a street cop. The coupling effect is a two-pronged approach where candidates who resist assistance and rehabilitation, by default will receive the law enforcement prong when behavior exhibits a callous disregard with laws and a communities desire in maintaining a certain quality of life.
The homeless candidate receives both direct and indirect assistance after a street assessment evaluates their individual needs and problems. We then solve their most basic problems so they may become self-sufficient.
We mend fences, rebuild character, solve their problems, then push them into the water where they are forced to learn how to swim again. When they are off the streets and into housing we continue to monitor and follow-up until we are certain they have become self sufficient for long term sustainability.
Deputy Donaldson was also named 2012 Law Enforcement Deputy of the Year. He was nominated because of his many achievements connected to the Homeless Initiative and its positive impact on our community.
You can also follow the deputy on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/HelpCopsHelpUs.