PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County deputies said they are encountering more people who are homeless right now as the face of homelessness begins to change.
The Homeless Outreach Team at PBSO said it comes across 30 to 40 families and individuals a week who need help to get back on their feet.
"I saw myself in a whole different type of life with a job, taking care of kids, coming home cooking dinner," said Crystal, a mother of four children. "So this was really a humbling experience, to say the least, for me and my kids."
Living out of her van and now in a Palm Beach County hotel is not what Crystal ever envisioned for herself and her children.
"They’re hungry. They want to play. They don’t understand it’s not just a family vacation or something. We really do have to work to get back on our feet," Crystal said.
After escaping a dangerous situation states away and bouncing around South Florida a bit, fate lead Crystal here, and to Palm Beach County Corporal Adrian Maldonado.
"They brought me down from the ground and they lifted me up," Crystal said.
Crystal said when the sheriff's office got involved, she went on a rocket ship and accelerated because she was getting food and clothes for her children.
"I’m still trying to soak it in," Crystal said. "It’s just really nice that I’m finally getting somewhere, because it seemed so stagnant before. And now I’m finally accomplishing those steps I want to accomplish, which is getting off the streets and back on my own feet again."
This morning, we came across Jessica, a single mother, and her four children. They have been living out of a van as they have found themselves experiencing homelessness. We could not just ignore them, so our— PBSO (@PBCountySheriff) November 16, 2022
Homeless Outreach Team worked their magic. pic.twitter.com/ULRYr8mTB7
"I've experienced homelessness myself," Maldonado said. "I come from a broken family, and the least I can do is give back to the community and the people we come across day in and day out."
Maldonado jumped in right away, helping the family with the resources they needed to start over.
"Everything they did buy, like the $400 of groceries, came out of their own paycheck. Not from a fund," Crystal said. "So it was really out of the kindness of their own heart that they really went out of their way to help us. And I’m forever grateful for it, honestly. I’m so thankful."
Maldonado said the sheriff's office is encountering more and more families as the face of homelessness changes.
"We think about the guy holding a sign at the intersection at the end of I-95. But now we’re dealing with families, with single moms with several kids, husbands and wives, and the elderly population is getting crushed," Maldonado said.
As Maldonado works to change lives one family at a time, he said one thing must remain.
"If you have an ounce of hope, it’s possible," Maldonado said.
Crystal sees that hope every time she looks at her kids.
"I can’t sit here depressed in my feelings. I can’t afford to give up. I gotta keep going for my kids, no matter what," Crystal said.
It's a family affair. Maldonado said his wife is taking Crystal to lunch and to the movies on Friday.
Crystal is hoping to have a job and temporary housing some time next week.
If you'd like to help the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office's Homeless Outreach Team, email email@example.com.
"It’s what we’re called to do," Maldonado said. "In law enforcement, we serve and protect. I love to take that serve approach and become their advocates."