Every day, school officials noticed that a little girl was arriving at school both late and exhausted. No matter what day of the week it was, the little girl was never prepared for the school day and never had enough energy to make it through until the end without the threat of dozing off during class. The girl had just moved from Colorado to Oklahoma with her father, so the school contacted the local police to check out the father’s SUV to make sure everything in the little girl’s life was safe and sound.
James Schweikhard wanted to shake things up, so he decided to abandon his life in Colorado and start fresh in Oklahoma. He put all of his belongings into his SUV and began the long drive with his 10-year-old daughter.
“I packed up everything that we own in the truck, and … we just drove here,” the father said. “It was more of a risk staying in Oklahoma. I couldn’t get a job for anything, couldn’t get a place to live.”
Unfortunately, the Oklahoma economy was in the crapper, and James struggled to find a job to make ends meet. While he was hunting for work, he and his daughter lived out of his Suburban SUV. The vehicle broke down after their move, so James was forced to walk his daughter to school every morning – and it was tough to know that she was homeless.
The girl’s school became very concerned that the 10-year-old and her father were living in the SUV, so they called the cops on them and suggested an officer perform a welfare check. Lakewood Police Officer James Butler received the call and went to James’s SUV to check out what was going on.
“I saw them looking at my truck. I said, ‘Officers, what is going on?'” James told KUSA. “[He] said ‘We’re trying to help you.’ I said, ‘Ok, I can accept that.'”
James added, “I’m not used to getting help from cops.”
James explained his situation to Officer Butler. Although he didn’t like the fact that he was living out of his car, he wanted to tell the officer the truth since Butler made it very clear that he was there to help – not harm.
“It was the right thing to do,” Butler said. “Because at any point in time in our lives, any one of us can be in that same situation – offering assistance to another human being is the right thing to do.”
Butler and other police officers with the Lakewood Police Department managed to find James and his daughter a place to rest their heads. They also worked with a local towing company to take James’s broken-down SUV to a body job where it was fixed up, so it was running again. Both the towing company and the autobody shop agreed to perform their services free of charge to support the homeless father and his daughter.
“Feels really different to help someone who you know is down on their luck,” said Sun Valley Automotive owner Jere Burton.
Now, Lakewood officers are helping James and his daughter find permanent housing. The dedicated father could not be happier with the turn of events.
“I think it’s awesome, I think it’s really cool — very unexpected, but very cool,” he said.
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