You are here

CSULB police officer's caring effort brings homeless man back from the brink

Published January 21, 2021

I recently met a 32-year-old man outside Blair Field. He didn’t appear to be homeless. He was clean, well dressed, and he had a French bulldog with him. I approached him and since I have a French bulldog as well, we shared stories about our dogs.

After a while, I started asking him about himself: His name, where he was from, and what he was doing in the Blair Field area.

When I asked him where he lived, he got quiet, and he started tearing up. He pointed to a tent that was just outside the center field wall of Blair Field. He broke down and told me he had just become homeless and he was staying in a tent with his dog. 

Todd* was originally from San Diego, had a good career, a nice car, and owned a nice house. He told me he was a surfer - I am a surfer as well. He was raised by a good family, which he had been “on and off” with over the years due to his heroin addiction. He had become homeless because of his addiction.

He said he was scared and unsure of how he would survive on the streets. He said he felt vulnerable, not knowing anyone on the streets, he was afraid for his safety and feared his dog would be stolen from him. I asked him what I could do to help. He broke down and asked me for help.

chad robbinsTodd gave me his dad’s phone number and I contacted him to verify the story. When I identified myself as a police officer, his dad broke down, and told me he had to pull his car over.

He said he thought I was calling to notify him that Todd was dead. His dad confirmed everything I was told – he even told me he had performed CPR on Todd several times when he found him overdosing on heroin. He said he hadn’t heard from Todd in over a year, and he had given up hope.

He could no longer be a part of Todd’s life because he was too traumatized by everything Todd had put him through. He had sent Todd to multiple rehabs and nothing worked.

I shared with him my background with working with the homeless and people on drugs and I promised him I would do everything I could to help get Todd’s life back. His dad later told me he thought I was fake; I was not real. He has never heard of a police officer doing this for anyone.

I told Todd that if he is 100% in, I would do everything I could to get him his life back. I reached out to a few people who could get him into rehab, but it would take a few days due to insurance. Todd asked me to take his dog until he sobered up.

I made a few contacts with other local transients who have been in the area for years. In a way, they are the shot callers for the area. They told me they would watch out for Todd and his dog until I returned.

When my shift ended, I came back to take Todd’s dog home with me. I fed and bathed the dog, but our dogs didn’t get along so at midnight I brought Todd’s dog back to him along with some goods for himself and his dog. I spoke to him for a few hours to reassure him that he could do this. He asked me for cigarettes and some drinks which I got for him to help relieve the stress and his detox process.

On my days off, I reached out to some other University Police Officers. They were willing to help while I was off attending to my sick dog and pregnant wife. During my days off, those officers helped to keep Todd safe and fed. They would FaceTime me while they were speaking with him.

When I returned to work, I noticed Todd had moved to the south part of Recreation Park, where there were other transients. For the next couple of days, I stayed in contact with Todd, and he told me he still had not used heroin or fentanyl. I noticed his behavior was different. He was hanging around not only heroin users but meth users. His behavior showed he switched to using meth. I questioned him on the meth use but he admitted that he only used a sub-Oxone to help his detox from the heroin and fentanyl. I didn’t believe him, but I did not lose hope. 

When I showed up at the park the next day, he was gone. I asked the other transients where he went, and one told me he had an episode and walked to his storage near the traffic circle. I tried calling his phone, but it went to voicemail.

A couple of days passed and I would get phone calls and voicemails from him. His phone had been stolen and he called from random gas stations, which I would check to see if I could catch up to him, but it failed. In his voicemails I could tell he was using meth. He was very paranoid, and he would say people were drugging him and they were trying to steal his dog. 

About three weeks went by and I lost contact with Todd until one day, I received a call from a San Diego number. It was Todd. A part of me was resentful after all that I did for him, but I was happy he reached out. His voice was calm, clear and he seemed happy. He apologized for not calling.

He reached out to his father, who picked him up from Long Beach, drove him to San Diego and got him into rehab. He was so happy he started the process of getting his life back. He accepted the Lord back into his life and he thanked me for everything I had done for him.

Over the next couple of weeks, we stayed in touch. After he was clean for 30 days, we made arrangements to meet. I drove to San Diego on my day off and had breakfast with him and his father. He looked and acted like a different person. He was happy again. He was working on his sobriety, building his relationship back with his father/family, and working. His father thanked me for everything I had done for his son. They were both happy to be back together. I still stay in contact with both Todd and his father. His father invited me down to their house to meet his family. He expressed to me how grateful he was for everything I had done.  

Officer Chad Robbins has been a member of the University Police Department for 11 years. Beach Voices is an occasional feature that allows members of the Beach community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – to share their personal experiences. If you would like to be considered, send submissions labeled “Beach Voices” to StratComm@csulb.edu

 *A pseudonym was used to protect his identity.