Police officer, the community take action to help homeless woman with 8 kids

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jul 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-24 16:51:54-04

Norfolk, Va. - 18-year-old Olivia Obeng is the oldest of 8 children. Her family was homeless after moving to Virginia from California. They came out to Hampton Roads under the impression they could stay with local family members.

They said the situation didn't work out and the family was struggling to find shelter.

Obeng said they tried all the local shelters for six weeks. She said, "When we tried, we weren't getting any replies.”

One night, they said they literally had no place to go.

June McCord said, "My children slept in the car and I slept on the ground and because of that, I got out there with a sign that said I was homeless.”

McCord's 18-year-old daughter took action and wrote an email to NewsChannel 3.

"My mom, she was standing out there holding a sign. People are judging her. I was just looking at the kids while they were sitting in the car thirsty and hungry. It's just sad so I'm just going to write and then hopefully someone will help and you did so."

NewsChannel 3 took action and got on the phone contacting local homeless shelters.

We learned that because the family was out of state and so large it was making it extremely difficult for them to find a place to stay.

They were also living with other relatives for a period which technically makes them not homeless.

Then leaders with ForKids told NewsChannel 3 space opened up at an emergency shelter.

Usually in Norfolk you need to be living in the city for 90 days to get assistance, but shelter leaders said they bent the rules because this family was so desperate.

ForKids provided NewsChannel 3 with the following statement:

ForKids provides many services to homeless families in Hampton Roads including emergency shelter and a Regional Housing Crisis Hotline. Family homelessness is complex and resources are scarce.

Large families and families that come from out-of-state bring additional challenges. Shelters throughout the region remain full and in overflow status and most cities have residency requirements before shelter and services can be accessed.

The McCord family case has involved assistance from many individuals and organizations in our community over the last 30+ days and we are grateful for their compassion for these children.

Adjoining rooms became available last week at ForKids’ emergency shelter and, due to the specific needs of this family, the City of Norfolk waived their 90-day residency requirement for services and shelter.

The family entered the ForKids shelter on Friday.

Now McCord is looking for work while her oldest daughter watches the kids.

Before the family started staying in the shelter there was a cop who went out of his way to help them.

Norfolk Police Officer Wayne Ricci has seen a lot working the streets but an encounter with McCord and her 8 homeless kids was more than he could bear.

"Just kind of was at a loss. I needed to help her. It was getting late, it was a real hot that night. I told her to pack the kids up, we're going to get a hotel,” said Officer Ricci.

Out of his own pocket, he paid for them to stay at a nearby hotel for two nights. He did not tell anyone what he did.

We tracked down Officer Ricci after the family told us what he had done.

But there was one person he needed to tell. His wife had been out of town for two weeks.

A hotel room for two nights was an extra expense that most husbands would need to explain.

Officer Ricci wasn't in trouble with his wife and he wasn't the only person who took action.

The WTKR Facebook page was flooded with comments.

Our viewers were asking how they could help.  There was some negativity posted online, but the majority of the comments were sympathetic.

Phyllis Stith has started a back to school drive for the family collecting supplies and clothes.

“It could happen to any of us at any given point in time,” said Stith.

Total strangers took action and got results for this family in need.

If you are interested in helping the family, you can contact the ForKids Shelter at 757-622-6400.  They will help collect donations being made for the children.