- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Police Officer Angela Morehouse thinks of her older brother when she wakes homeless people in parking garage stairwells or passes by them in alleys as she makes her rounds in downtown Lincoln.

“Part of me is like, ‘I have an extra room at home,’” Morehouse, 33, said during a ride-along on a cold night.

Morehouse, a member of the Lincoln Police Department’s Center Team, works on a project aiming to address the city’s “frequent flyers,” those most often arrested who are often chronically homeless and working through addiction and untreated mental illness.

Driving Morehouse are the stories from her brother’s four years living and working among the homeless, where he was beaten by police and humbled by panhandling, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1v83i5E ).

“The first time I got hit by a cop … I literally didn’t believe it was happening,” said Patrick Sands, 35.

Sands and his sister grew up in a middle-class household in Lincoln.

Just after his high school graduation, Sands, his German shepherd Ruckus, and a friend hitchhiked from Lincoln to New York.

There, he met a girl who hopped trains, and they traveled for a year and a half before parting ways.

After that, he traveled alone all over America and to parts of Canada and Mexico, he said.

During stops in cities like Seattle and Portland, he saw how passers-by and police treated homeless people.

“You see the worst come out in everybody,” Sands said.

Sands spent a lot of time on the outskirts of towns with the so-called outlaws - those who don’t use soup kitchens and shelters.

“I was out there by choice,” he said. “I wanted to see the world.”

Many of the others, though, had no options.

Sands said he generally kept his distance from people, relying on Ruckus to look out for him. Some outlaws would “kill you for your shoes,” he said.

“It’s not a safe place to be, out on the street.”

He washed dishes and worked other odd jobs to get money, and for a week he helped set up and tear down a circus. But that was hard labor, he said.

“Everyone else doing it was at least three times my size,” Sands said.

Sometimes he’d sit on street corners holding a generic “homeless and hungry” sign. He called that experience profoundly spiritual, leaving him with a feeling beyond humility.

“I feel like that’s something everyone should have to do to be president,” Sands said.

Eventually, he stopped hopping trains and settled down, although not intentionally. It just happened.

Sands took a job as a country club chef in Lincoln, and because of his experience, he started volunteering at the People’s City Mission. Some days he volunteered before going to work.

“I went from having a Vietnam vet whose children were dead - the most tragic, horrible story you could think of - crying in my arms, and within hours, I had some woman screaming at me because her steak wasn’t cooked right.”

He later worked at the mission full time and has done social services work at several other agencies. Now, he works at Blue Valley Behavioral Health.

When Morehouse joined the police department in February 2012, she told her brother she’d be working with homeless people.

Sands told her what he knew about the lifestyle, and he didn’t have to remind her that homeless people are still human, he said.

“She’s got a huge heart, so a lot of it went without saying.”

For the past few months, Morehouse has been recovering from back surgery, which has given her time to work on her project to put refurbished parking meters in downtown spots where homeless people gather to ask for money.

Given his background, Sands is glad his sister isn’t kicking off a campaign that just tells people not to give money to people on street corners.

As for Morehouse, she is sympathetic to the situations in which some homeless people find themselves.

“Due to compassion, you want to do more with them than just jail,” she said.

___

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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