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Paying It Forward

Columbus Division of Police Community Liaison Ofc Robin Medley (11 Pct) asked Starfish Assignment for help with an elderly veteran who is living in a house in deplorable conditions that will most likely be condemned by Code Enforcement. The vet was very reluctant to listen to anyone about moving into a safe, clean home. In addition, his medical coverage has lapsed and he wouldn't consider turning to the VA for care.

We asked our volunteer, Jim Stewart, to help on this Assignment. Jim was actually the original Starfish Assignment and the reason we were established. He was homeless for six years, but on July 4, 2018, our founder, Nicole Banks, and her 11-year-old son, Rohan, met him in a parking lot. She and her friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers banded together and raised money to buy him a "new" car to replace the old, unreliable one he'd been living in. In addition, with help from the network of people who had joined the effort, they were able to find him safe, affordable housing, where he remains today.

Helping Jim became the basis for Starfish Assignment--the group who had gathered together realized they could make a difference and didn't want it to end with Jim. Although they realized that homelessness is a complicated issue that is better left to agencies devoted to the task, Starfish quickly found its niche: working with law enforcement officers who identify needs in their communities.

Jim has actively worked with us all along, and since he is a USMC Vietnam vet himself, he particularly likes to get involved in veteran's issues. Today he and Ofc Medley visited the veteran, and Ofc Medley said that Jim completely changed the vet's outlook on the VA and on moving out of his home. He reported that the vet wouldn't listen to anyone about moving or going to the VA, but once Jim talked to him, he agreed to go to the VA tomorrow and will talk to a caseworker about medical care and getting housing.

Ofc Medley was amazed at the change that came over the vet and was very pleased that Jim had been able to so easily persuade him--just by speaking of his own experiences with the VA and with housing--to reach out for help.

On Jim's part, he was very impressed with how compassionate and dedicated Ofc Medley is. "He even said he'll take him to the VA himself if he has to," Jim reports. "He's a very nice man." The side of policing that doesn't make the news.

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