‘Hand up, not a hand out’: California deputy helps panhandler get new life

CALIFORNIA – A deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in California planned to issue a citation to a panhandler he had warned numerous times, but instead he spent weeks getting the man proper identification, hoping to help get him off the streets, according to CBS News 6.

On November 2,  Deputy Jacob Swalwell pulled over to issue a citation to 67-year-old Michael Myers, who told the officer he had none.

“This is often an excuse we hear from people who have warrants or are lying about their name,“ the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. “Everyday, people lie to us. It’s just part of the job. When people are truthful and sincere we often take notice. That’s what Swalwell felt when he began to talk to Michael.”

It turned out that Myers didn’t have an official birth certificate or identification card and he had given up on applying for an ID through DMV – which can be a difficult process without certain paperwork.

Deputy Swalwell, who works in the Crime Prevention Unit, told Myers he would help him get an ID card.

Little did they both realize that a simple idea would become a “frustrating nightmare,” according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Though a law enforcement database had Myers’ previous ID number, the DMV had no record of it.

Deputy Swalwell with Michael Myers. Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

DMV said Myers would need a birth certificate and two separate official documents proving residency to get the ID.

“Swalwell thought, how are you supposed to get 2 official documents when you don’t even have one to start with,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

Swalwell helped Michael find his birth certificate. Myers didn’t know much else about his early childhood and had never even seen a copy of his own birth certificate. When Swalwell got the birth certificate, Myers learned his true first name was Gordon and his middle name is actually Michael; he also learned Information about his parents he did not know.

Swalwell and Myers went back to the DMV, but were again denied an ID card. DMV did not approve of the law enforcement documentation provided with the birth certificate.  DMV recommended contacting a local church that had the authority to draft a letter on Myer’s behalf, stating he was a California resident.

Swalwell obtained a formal letter from Valley Bible Church in Pleasanton and wrote a letter on official etterhead stating Myers was a Hayward resident.

Finally, DMV accepted the documentation and his application for ID was approved.

“Michael is now the proud new owner of a California Senior Citizen ID card,” wrote the sheriff’s office.

The next step is help Myers get some senior citizen benefits and a part time job, Swalwell said. Myers, according to the sheriff’s office is not a drug addict or alcoholic, he just wants to work and get off the street.

“All he needed was a hand up and not a hand out after all,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

Though thousands of people drove past Myers for years, including law enforcement, it took the interest of one person to help change is life.

“Imagine how many others like Michael just need a tiny bit of help, someone to care and take notice,” the sheriff’s office wrote.