Port Richey Police chief works to help homeless veteran get back on her feet

By Sarah Blazonis, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 6:36 PM EST

Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio said he’s working to help a homeless Army veteran make her way to family in North Carolina after her camp was discovered during a routine abandoned vehicle call.

  • Veteran served in the Army from 1979 - 1982
  • Family in North Carolina has offered to help
  • Help now needed to transport veteran to NC

“She had fallen on hard times and been in and out of some of the shelters they put her up in, and then, of course, she fell victim to some of the criminal activity that goes on in shelters,” DeCanio said.

Her name is Patricia. She asked that we refrain from using her last name.

Patricia tells us she’s 60 years old, and that she served in the Army from 1979 - 1982.

“I went in the year after high school because I wanted an education,” she said.

When asked if she ever thought she’d end up homeless, Patricia responded, “Oh, no, no, no.”

Chief DeCanio said his department would normally ask someone in Patricia’s situation to move their camp. Once he saw her veteran ID card, however, DeCanio said he knew he wanted to do more.

“My father and my father-in-law were in World War II,” DeCanio said. “I have two brothers-in-law who were marines in Vietnam -- they’re our veterans, the United States Army. That means we have to take care of them. They’re our responsibility.”

DeCanio said he reached out to the VA, which helped point him in the right direction. He also reached out to the local chapter of the group Racing 4 Vets.

That organization’s vice president and regional director, John Vann, said the group’s first priority is to make sure Patricia is healthy, stabilized, and has a safe place to stay. He said Racing 4 Vets helps veterans utilize resources within the community, and that it’s not uncommon for their group to work to help homeless veterans.

“What we do is try to get them proactive about using their community and being involved in their community, because there’s tons of resources out there," Vann said. "It’s just connecting the dots is where they usually fall through."

Patricia said she appreciates the efforts of police to help her and the city’s homeless community.

“When the police roust [sic] people up and say, ‘What are you doing? Do something with your life,’ they’re actually telling you, ‘Don’t be a murder victim so we find you.’ They’re trying to keep the community organized,” she said.

As of Wednesday evening, DeCanio said he was able to make contact with Patricia’s family in North Carolina and was assured they can provide her a safe place to stay until she gets back on her feet. Now, it’s just a matter of getting her there.

DeCanio asks that any group or business in the community that could help transport Patricia and her belongings contact Port Richey PD at (727) 816-1919.