Homeless liaison officer helps find shelter for displaced man

In Features
( Adriana Hymovitz / Daily Titan )

It only took one ride along while he was in college for Patrick Launi, University Police Sergeant and Homelessness Liaison Officer (HLO), to decide he wanted to dedicate his life to serving his community as a police officer.

Launi wanted to get into law enforcement because he always had a strong desire to help people. At one point, he was deciding between teaching or being an officer.

“I see law enforcement as a customer service industry. We are here to help people fix problems,” Launi said.  

He ended up going to UC Irvine to study criminology and trained at the Long Beach Police Academy.

Now Launi is the Homelessness Liaison Officer (HLO) and has been in law enforcement for over 13 years and started working at the CSUF Police Department in 2007.

In August 2016, University Police established its own HLO program modeled after the one at the Fullerton Police Department. Earlier this year, Launi helped a man identified as Mr. TM find a home after 17 years of living on the streets. Mr. TM could not be contacted for this story due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations requiring his location to remain unknown to Launi.

Starting in 2009, Launi said that they had received about 17 calls from students who were concerned when they saw Mr. TM around campus.

Launi said he was always very respectful of the campus community and only wanted to use some of the facilities that were available to the public. He didn’t have any criminal history and never did anything offensive.

“I was really alarmed to see how long we date back with him, and I immediately knew, talking to (Mr. TM), that he was an individual that was down on his luck,” Launi said.

Homeless people are hesitant to seek help because they don’t trust law enforcement or government, Launi said. Something that convinced Mr. TM to get help from was the way he treated him like a normal person.

“(Mr. TM) made a comment to me at one point on a contact: ‘This is the first time in a long time that a law enforcement officer is speaking to me eye to eye, and talking man to a man here,’” Launi said.

It was at that point when Launi told Mr. TM that they were going to get him the help he needed.

Mr. TM told Launi about a man named Tony Imbert, a volunteer from Helping Hands, who would help him whenever he went to a church called Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach.

Launi and Imbert tried to figure out how to finally get Mr. TM off the streets. Imbert said they decided to give him a few tasks to see if he was serious about getting help.

“If they can’t help themselves, I’m not going to waste my time trying to help somebody who’s not going to help themselves,” Imbert said.

Because Mr. TM is a veteran of the Air Force, they asked him to get his DD 214 form, which includes discharge or retirement papers from the military, with these, he could be taken to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for even more services.

The VA authenticated the DD 214 form and found Mr. TM a temporary home. Getting housing that quickly is unexpected as it sometimes takes years, Launi and Imbert said.

University Police Capt. Scot Willey said Launi was “smiling from ear to ear” when he told him about how they were able to find Mr. TM a home.

As of right now, he is in transitional housing, through the VA, that he can stay in for two years. He is also eligible for Social Security and able to receive additional income.

Imbert said he is going to try to find a permanent home in Orange County for Mr. TM but they are currently unable to contact him. Once he was taken to the VA, HIPAA states that his information and location must remain private. Laun and Imbert asked Mr. TM to get a cell phone, and Launi and Imbert are still waiting to hear from him again.

Because of his dedication to helping people, Launi has also been recognized in past years with awards for some of his other work.

Launi received a Distinguished Service award for working with Willey to establish the Ashley Nelson award that honors officers who make great efforts to stop drunk driving.

In 2010, Launi helped a student who tried to commit suicide, which earned him the Life Saving Award.

He was sitting on the edge of the top level of the Eastside Parking Structure. When Launi got there, he turned off the lights and sirens so the student wouldn’t see him. Once at the top, Launi noticed the student was so focused on looking down that he was able to grab him and pull him off the edge before he could jump. After that, the student was taken to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to get help.

Launi’s term as the HLO will be ending soon and he will return to helping others through investigations.

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