In Officer Tony Yim, Newport Beach Police Department Reveals its Heart for the Homeless

In helping the homeless population, Hoag’s Community Care Navigators know they are not alone. They know there are many other kind hearts in the community who share their passions, concerns and goals.

One of the biggest hearts for the homeless out there belongs to Tony Yim, an officer with the

Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD). The 11½-year department veteran has worked closely with the city’s homeless men, women and families since the NBPD launched a concerted outreach 5½ years ago.

“We realized that arresting and citing the homeless wasn’t helping anyone. It wasn’t solving any problems, so we knew we needed to be more innovative,” explains Yim, the department’s Homeless Liaison Officer.

In a testament to his sensitivity and concern for the city’s homeless community, Yim describes his role as “a social worker with a badge. Our goal is to work together as a team – with Hoag’s Community Care Navigators and other county resources that assist the homeless – to help close the gaps and find people permanent housing."

“When things line up beautifully, it is awesome.”

Teamwork takes multiple forms and is guided by each unique circumstance. For example, Micka, a homeless man who lives on Balboa Pier, needs back surgery. His care is being coordinated by Share Our Selves, the Orange County nonprofit organization that provides high-quality safety-net services to the homeless. Kristy Gamboa, one of Hoag’s Community Care Navigators, is helping him find a safe place to recuperate following his surgery. And Yim has offered to take Micka to the hospital on the morning of his surgery.

Then there’s Robert, a high-functioning alcoholic who lives under the Newport Pier. A former engineer in Germany, Robert got cancer and hepatitis and eventually lost his work visa, forcing him to return to the United States. His bad luck compounded when someone stole his identification and drained his bank account. When Gamboa asked Robert if there was something he wanted to work on, he said he’d like to get his teeth fixed. “I want to smile again,” the soft-spoken man said.

Yim encouraged Robert to take action to find permanent housing, and is coordinating efforts with Robert’s brother, who might be able to provide a room. Yim told Robert that other homeless men view Robert as a leader and encouraged him to lead by example by getting help and off the streets, acquiring Social Security, and setting achievable life goals. Robert said, “I would like that. That would be nice.” To which Gamboa replied, “Then let’s work on that together.”

Working together, NBPD, Hoag, Share Our Selves and so many others are changing lives, one day, and one small step, at a time.