She knew that her profession certainly wasn’t the most honorable, but she couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the officer striding toward her. But that was when she looked past the officer and saw the man she had sent away.
Her palm grew sweaty as her heart began to race. She watched hopelessly as the officer slapped his palms against her desk and leaned forward, making her flinch. He then made a demand that she never saw coming.
Alicia Danielle worked at the pawnshop downtown and thought she had seen it all at this point. She was no stranger to the desperation and greed in people’s eyes as she counted the dollar bills after a big sale. What broke her heart the most was watching desperate mothers pawn off the last of their family heirlooms.
In time, she learned how to harden her heart and deal with it. If it weren’t for this job, she had no idea where she would be in life.
Alicia had kept her job for years at this point. She had been in the business for so long that she could read a customer’s intentions just based on looking at their faces.
The pawnshop attracted all kinds of people from all over town, but usually, Alicia could separate them into two different categories: the desperate down-and-out, and the vultures that hovered close behind, desperate to score a deal. But the officer who confronted her that day left Alicia completely blindsided.
Over the years, Alicia had grown to know their regular customers, she had them all pegged. She knew well who would haggle over rare antiques and who would be willing to pay the full price, without a second thought.
It was a small town, which meant that there weren’t many people, but she also never forgot a face. One day, when an unfamiliar man walked into the store, she was sure to keep a close eye on him.
Alicia stood by the register as her instructs went into overdrive. She watched as the strange man made a beeline to the back of the store. Her palms grew sweaty as her fingers hovered over the panic button underneath the counter. She had no idea why she felt so nervous, but not even the panic button calmed her nerves.
She was well aware that if anything happened, it would be over by the time the police showed up. But she never could have expected that the policeman would take the man’s side.
Her eyebrows were tucked tightly together as she stared at the monitor. She watched hopelessly as the man disappeared from the security camera’s feed. The man wore a long coat, his hands firmly tucked into his pockets.
But she couldn’t focus on the man for too long, unfortunately. While she was too busy watching the man, a line of people had formed in front of the counter. She was reluctant to tear her eyes away but she had to. Because of this, she failed to notice the squad car sidling into the parking lot out front.
Every now and again, her eyes would trail to the screen, looking for the suspicious man as she handled payments. She spotted him once again, but now he was loitering behind the snaking line of customers.
Alicia was so surprised. She couldn’t believe her luck. This was the busiest the store had been in a long time. But the man hadn’t joined the line. She wondered why he was hanging back. She continued helping customers, waiting for him to make his next move.
But once the lunchtime rush had passed and most of the customers had left, the man slowly made his way to the counter. She was relieved to see that the man wanted to purchase something, the relief was evident on her face.
Her shoulders relaxed. She thought it would be a straightforward transaction. She would ring up his items, put them in a bag, he would pay and then he would leave with his items. But she was very wrong.
The man bit down on his lip gingerly as he placed a pair of secondhand shoes on Alicia’s counter. She quickly rang them up and told him the amount, then he handed her his debit card.
But she made the mistake of letting her guard down. As she punched the numbers into her card machine and handed it to him, he suddenly began to act suspicious again.
Alicia’s eyes trailed down to the man’s feet and then back to his face. He was obviously nervous, it was like he knew that something terrible was about to happen.
His teeth sunk into his lip as he punched in his pin. He crossed his fingers like he was begging for good luck. But he knew what was about to happen. And then all hell broke loose.
The man passed the terminal back to Alicia and held his breath. But he couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening.
His card was declined. Looking visibly upset and angry, he shoved his hand in his pocket when Alicia gently asked him if he had any other way to pay. But this strange interaction was far from being over yet.
The man informed Alicia that he had no cash and no other cards on him, so she had to ask him to return the shoes, which he did. Then, he stormed out of the store.
Alicia couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, but this wasn’t a charity store. Little did Alicia know, she was going to see the man again very soon… and he wouldn’t be alone.
After the man had left the store, Alicia was again overwhelmed by customers. She didn’t have time to reflect on what had just happened.
But when she looked up and saw the policeman hanging back with the man who had tried to purchase the shoes not half an hour ago, she froze. Was she in trouble?
Alicia tried not to focus on what was about to unfold in her store and tried to serve her customers promptly and efficiently.
But she couldn’t help but notice that the man and the police officer seemed to be hanging back on purpose — they weren’t joining the line of shoppers. Did they want to speak to her in private?
Eventually, Alicia had almost rung up and processed all the transactions in the checkout line. That’s when she began to panic.
She was all alone in the store and if there was about to be trouble, she’d rather have witnesses. Alas, it wasn’t long before the second rush hour had ended and she was alone again. Except for the two men.
When the big man in uniform made his way to the register, Alicia felt fear coursing through her veins. What was going on? She studied his face for a clue, but she found none.
“Is everything okay?” She stammered. “Can I help you in any way?” But when the intimidating man slapped his hands on the counter and leaned in, his answer left her completely blindsided.
“No problem, but if you have those shoes still, I’d like to go ahead and purchase them,” said the officer. Alicia couldn’t believe her ears. Was he really doing this?
In all her years of working in that pawnshop, nothing like this had ever happened before. She looked around, dumbfounded. There was nobody else in the store to witness what was happening.
Alicia had noticed that the shoes on the man’s feet were tattered and were full of holes. She visibly relaxed.
It was clear what the officer’s purpose in her store was now — he’d come to buy the replacement pair that the man so desperately needed. But why had he waited for everyone to leave before approaching her?
Alicia quickly realized that neither of the men wanted to make a scene. The officer had calculated his response to coincide with the pawnshop’s customers leaving.
This was because neither of the men wanted attention, on social media or otherwise. The officer genuinely wanted to help the man in his time of need. That’s when Alicia made a decision.
Alicia also wanted to help the poor man, so she told the officer that she would split the cost of the new shoes, and she’d pay for her half out of her own pocket.
She was inspired by the policeman’s kindness and also wanted to pay it forward. The man obviously needed some warm, comfortable shoes.
Alicia shared what she had witnessed that day on Facebook. Often, she felt like there was too much hate, mistrust, and division in the world, but the generous cop had restored her faith in humanity.
What happened that day allowed her to see that it’s the small, unseen acts of kindness that really make a difference.
“We still have so far to go, but I promise you small acts of kindness like this are what’s going to rebuild trust and faith in our communities,” Alicia wrote.
“I didn’t get the cop’s name but this didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by me or the customer.” Shortly after Alicia wrote her post, it went viral – garnering more than 1,500 shares and 18,000 reactions. But there was something heartbreaking about the man who needed a new pair of shoes.
The man who needed a new pair of shoes was, in fact, a homeless veteran. Homeless veterans are people who served in the armed forces but do not have adequate accommodation.
With an estimated 40,000 veterans living on the streets at any given time, America has a huge problem. But why?
Those that sacrificed their lives to serve their country shouldn’t be dealing with homelessness, a lack of medical care, and neglect after they are discharged. For years, the issue of homeless veterans has been largely ignored by the government.
“It’s so heartbreaking. They served our country and America should be taking better care of them. I feel like they’re overlooked,” said Adeline Gonzalez. From Daytona, Florida.
Seeing homeless veterans is always upsetting. It’s difficult to believe that these people were tough and strong-willed at a point in their lives.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for homeless veterans to also be disabled or mentally unstable. And not many people are aware of what former service members experience after their return to civilian life.
For veterans, the transition from service to civilian life is a tough one. Veterans often face PTSD from their experiences on the battlefield.
And they often turn to substance abuse as a way to treat themselves and forget about their problems as they struggle to adapt to their new lives – and this just compounds the issue.
The leading factors thought to lead to homelessness among veterans are PTSD, unemployment, and substance abuse.
Studies have shown that poor mental health among veterans is a common problem, and mental illness is a strong predictor of vets becoming homeless. Some of the biggest challenges U.S. veterans face, however, are social isolation and a lack of support.
Another major issue veterans face is a long backlog of claims in Veteran’s Affairs. This means that, even if a homeless veteran tries to get help from the government, they often do not receive it in a timely manner.
While Veterans Affairs isn’t harming veterans directly, the lack of consistent and timely help is. The programs through VA only reach around 40% of their intended recipients. So, how do they get help?
While homelessness is a chronic issue across America, Los Angeles seems to be the epicenter. There are around 4,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles alone.
Decreasing this number is a painfully slow process because more veterans are becoming homeless faster than they can find somewhere to stay. So, what is being done about the problem?
The Housing First initiative’s approach is that providing permanent housing for homeless veterans is a priority. By providing housing for the homeless first, homeless people can then pursue their personal goals and improve their quality of life. And, the initiative is working.
In 2014, Phoenix moved the final group of chronically homeless veterans into housing and effectively solved the problem. Now, other states have been following suit.