The elderly, bedraggled man had become something of a fixture at a busy intersection in Hayward, California, and law enforcement officers had often pulled over and told him to move along. And that’s precisely what Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy Jacob Swalwell planned to do that day in early November. But just to make the message stick, he also planned to issue a citation.
But that all changed when he asked a simple question. Can I see a form of ID? The panhandler, Michael Myers, didn’t have one. And that’s where things got interesting.
Deputy Swalwell asked additional questions, and came to discover that Michael was a life-long resident of the Bay Area and had worked as a truck driver until a severe back injury left him unable to work. And because he lacked valid ID to prove his residency, he couldn’t obtain unemployment or any other government benefits.
“Michael panhandles three times a day for each meal and once he has enough money, he walks to either McDonald’s or Wendy’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He’s not a drug addict or alcoholic as society might stereotype,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote on its Facebook page. “Life hasn’t always been easy for him and when you don’t have an official birth certificate or identification card it can be hard to get a job or bank account.”
So instead of writing him a ticket, Deputy Swalwell performed an incredible act of compassion: He drove Michael to the local DMV so he could obtain a state-issued ID. Once there, however, they realized he couldn’t get an ID without three official documents that proved his residency.
The kind-hearted deputy helped out there, too, by signing a letter from the sheriff’s office and getting a second letter from a local church.
But the third document, a birth certificate, proved much more difficult. Michael not only didn’t have a copy, he’d never even seen it! So Deputy Swalwell did some digging around, and eventually discovered that Michael had been born at a hospital in nearby Oakland. Off they went to Highland Hospital, where Michael was finally able to get a copy of that much-needed document.
Michael’s 67 years old. He’s gone by that name his entire life. Yet it wasn’t until mid-November that he realized that’s his middle name. His given name is actually “Gordon.”
After jumping through all those hoops, Michael is now the bearer of an official California Senior Citizen ID card. That means he’ll finally be able to apply for Social Security benefits, and because of the publicity surrounding the ordeal, he’s even gotten some job offers.
Now that’s what I call exceptional public service! Good on Deputy Swalwell for being willing to listen and his perseverance.
Share this incredible story of compassion today!