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Glendale police officers help reunite homeless woman with mother in Portland

From left, Officer Daniel Lee, Thairapy owner Cindy Burns, Karol-Ann Roberts, Officer Mark Newborg and Glendale police media relations coordinator Tahnee Lightfoot pose for a photo after Roberts was given a makeover by Burns.
From left, Officer Daniel Lee, Thairapy owner Cindy Burns, Karol-Ann Roberts, Officer Mark Newborg and Glendale police media relations coordinator Tahnee Lightfoot pose for a photo after Roberts was given a makeover by Burns.
(Courtesy of the Glendale Police Department)

Karol-Ann Roberts couldn’t believe it when a pair of Glendale police officers wanted to reunite her with her mother in Oregon.

The 29-year-old had been homeless for several years, jumping from Oregon to Texas then to California, and had only recently found herself in Glendale.

She had been sleeping on a bus bench in front of a Whole Foods store when she came in contact with officers Daniel Lee and Mark Newborg, members of the Glendale Police Department’s homeless outreach team.

“They were just two angels with badges as far as I was concerned,” she said.

Roberts was initially wary of the two, resisting their efforts to get her help.

“She was a person of very few words but, little by little, we were able to break down those barriers,” Lee said.

“There were a lot of attempts and a lot of patience,” he added.

Roberts said the officers talked to her for a few days before she could take a “leap of faith,” open up to them and talk about her past and about coming to Los Angeles with her mother.

The pair had come to the city more than two years ago. However, they had to part ways when her mother returned to Oregon, and they eventually lost contact with one another.

Roberts said she had wanted to stay in touch with her mother, but found herself without a working phone and no other way of reaching out to her.

“It seemed to me that her mom was an emotional trigger for her and was someone that she really cared about,” Newborg said.

“In her mind, it felt that she abandoned her mom,” he added.

With some help from the Portland Police Department, the officers were able to track down Roberts’ mother and the two were able to reunite by telephone earlier this month.

Roberts’ mother, Tina, said she couldn’t believe it when she first received a call out of the blue from a Glendale police officer.

The 48-year-old had previously filed a missing person’s report after losing contact with her daughter, but it only led to a dead-end.

“It was amazing. I just started crying,” she said. “It was such a huge relief; I thought it was so surreal.”

Karol-Ann Roberts with Officers Mark Newborg and Daniel Lee standing in front of the Whole Foods in Glendale near where Roberts had been sleeping on a nearby bus bench after arriving in the city.
Karol-Ann Roberts with Officers Mark Newborg and Daniel Lee standing in front of the Whole Foods in Glendale near where Roberts had been sleeping on a nearby bus bench after arriving in the city.
(Courtesy of the Glendale Police Department)

After the phone call, the officers got the ball rolling to unite the mother and daughter.

Lee said it was a “multi-pronged approach,” involving the department’s community partners in getting Roberts back on her feet.

Ascencia, a nonprofit homeless-services organization, provided her with a place to shower for the first time in over a year. Goodwill and a Glendale police employee donated clothing, and a hair salon in Montrose gave Roberts a free makeover.

Thanks to grant funding, the officers were able to purchase a flight to Oregon for Roberts, and she soon found herself embracing her mother in the middle of the Portland International Airport.

“We hugged each other, we smiled and cried,” she said.

Since reuniting with her mother, Roberts said it’s been a day-by-day process working to get herself back on her feet.

She’ll be starting counseling sessions soon to “keep [her] in a good space” and is working to move into more permanent housing with her mother and stepfather.

Both Karol-Ann and Tina Roberts said they have nothing but thanks for the Glendale officers for bringing the two back together.

Tina Roberts even said it’s still so unbelievable that she’ll check in on her daughter while she’s sleeping every once in a while just to make sure everything’s OK.

Karol-Ann Roberts said it’s remarkable the two police officers stepped in to help.

“God bless [those officers] for giving a damn about me when I didn’t know how to,” she said.

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