SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) – After falling on hard times, Todd Lewis turned to drugs and the streets became his home.
“I promised myself this would be the last time,” he told himself again and again. “I feel like they robbed me of a lot of my life.”
He often panhandled for money outside at a restaurant off of Madison Avenue and Interstate 80. That’s where Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies, with the help of a new homeless outreach team, first approached Lewis with an offer for help.
“I remember right then I got teary-eyed and I said, ‘Todd this is it, this is your way out and off the street, this is a way to change your life,’” he said.
The Homeless Outreach Team was founded as a response to a growing homeless issue.
“It is large problem, it is the number one problem we are getting complaints on in community meetings,” said Sgt. Tom Bland.
A team of 14 deputies is dedicated full-time to respond to these complaints.
“They really try to get to the root of why are they homeless? What are the issues that they’re having out there? And what can we do, what can we offer to them to be successful?” Bland said.
In just the first four months of this year, the team cleaned up 750 camps, removed 190 tons of garbage, and helped 235 individuals get social service assistance.
“Instead of the first option being a ticket or a trip to jail, this is going out, engaging them with services, engaging them a contact to figure out what can we do to permanently end their homelessness,” he said.
Deputies say Lewis’ case is an example of their response.
“Immediately checked him into Volunteers of America program once we found out he was willing to end his addiction,” he said.
The team found out Lewis was capable of much more. He once obtained a degree in Fine Arts. And, now, he is finally managing to stay clean.
“It’s a complete miracle that those officers found me. I was at the right place at the right time,” Lewis said.