UTSW police show a heart for the homeless

UTSW Police Cpl. Phillip Starr and Crime Prevention Coordinator JaQuanna Dye load care kits for the homeless into a police cruiser.

On their patrols of the Southwestern Medical District campus, UT Southwestern police officers often come into contact with homeless individuals. The inability to lend a tangible hand had long bothered UTSW Police Cpl. Phillip Starr, a veteran of 23 years with the Police Department.

“I got to thinking about it one night when I realized that I’d had about a dozen interactions with a single homeless guy,” Cpl. Starr said. “I started thinking about what they don’t have, which is a lot; and about the things that they might be able to use.”

That led him and other officers to assemble and hand out basic comfort kits for the homeless. Those participating used their own money to buy and then hand out comfort items.

During colder months, officers may hand out kits that include a T-shirt, underwear, socks, a toboggan cap, gloves, wet wipes, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Everything comes inside a gallon-size Ziploc bag. In warm weather months, a bottle of water replaces the cap and gloves.

Officers involved in the voluntary outreach effort shop for travel sizes of toiletries, then assemble kits to hand out.

“These folks don’t have a lot, and my kids made me understand that one thing we sometimes are short of ourselves is empathy,” Cpl. Starr said. “We can give them a lot of information, but if we give them something tangible, something they can use, then we can achieve some goodwill right there.”

In another act of kindness, officers supplied coloring books that staff members of the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital can offer to children waiting with families in the emergency room.

“That felt really rewarding, doing something for our medical comrades at the hospital,” Cpl. Starr said. “They do a lot for us.”