WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A group of West Seneca Police officers went the extra mile and now their actions are going viral.
It’s captured the attention of people across the country, during a time when most of us are struggling.
But for one man named Gabe, he’s been dealing with hardships for quite a while.
“We’re familiar with him. He’s never been a problem. He’s had a troubled past,” said Lt. James Unger with the West Seneca Police Department.
Gabe has a home, but Lt. Unger says it’s not a great place for him.
Earlier this week, four West Seneca Police officers responded to an area on Orchard Park Road.
They found Gabe sleeping in the bushes.
“When our guys got there, they just checked on him and he insisted he was ok and he didn’t need any help but they could tell by what he was wearing and especially noted his footwear… which was not good for the weather conditions,” said Lt. Unger.
The heartbreaking photos the department posted on Facebook show Gabe’s reality.
He was wearing makeshift shoes made of the top of a boot, taped to a flip-flop.
The officers began brainstorming how they could help.
“Between the four of them they just got the idea, we’ll just go home quick because we all live in town and we can just grab a few things from our house and make up something for him,” said Lt. Unger.
The officers returned with food, clothing, toiletries and new sneakers and boots.
They offered him a place to stay, but Gabe declined.
“Our guys couldn’t get him out of their minds because of the weather forecast for that night was supposed to be snow. They convinced him to get to a better place,” said Lt. Unger.
The Restoration Center reached out to the police department, wanting to help.
He eventually was taken to the Flickinger Center for medical and mental care as well as a warm meal.
They also made sure he was registered properly so he could receive a stimulus check.
Unfortunately, as what happens many times with people in Gabe’s position, he decided to leave.
The generosity was too overwhelming.
“When you’re living on the street and you’re leading a quiet isolated life then all the sudden all these people are helping you, it’s a lot. He’s someone that didn’t show up overnight with shoes that were ripped,” said Jean Bennett, the Director of Housing and Homeless Services for the Restoration Society.
Bennett went on to say, “I was reading the stories on Facebook like everyone else… ripped shoes, the soles of his shoes. It didn’t happen overnight. He’s obviously spent some time alone.”
However, the outpouring of support has been tremendous, for both Gabe and the West Seneca Police Department.
The original post on Facebook received thousands of likes and shares.
“We’ve had so many offers from businesses, shelters to provide assistance to Gabe, individuals offering money and jobs – people asking if he needs a job, they could hire him so we’re collecting all that and we’re passing that onto him,” said Lt. Unger.
They hope this kind of response in the future continues to help people in Gabe’s position.
The department is taking the meaning “protect and serve” to heart, during a time when the community needs a bright light.