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An Illinois police department’s story about helping a teenager get back on her feet — after officers discovered she had been living on her own — has gone viral.
On Jan. 1, the Elgin Police Department took to Facebook to share a touching moment, when officers Kevin Snow and Hector Gutierrez received a call from property manager Holly Lucy about a girl who was living alone. Lucy had reportedly been monitoring the teenager and noticed that she would walk in and out of the apartment without a parent in sight.
“There was a suspicion that she might be living by herself in the apartment,” Gutierrez tells the camera. “So I came to the apartment to make contact with the teenager.”
Though the girl initially told the officer that her mother was around, Lucy confirmed to the police that neither parent seemed to be present in the girl’s life.
“There are situations out there where people get addicted to drugs or alcohol and, in this situation, we believe that mom was dealing with her own addiction and she wasn’t at the property,” Snow explains in the video.
Through a social worker, Snow and a colleague reportedly found out that the teenager was using a Link card — which is used in place of food stamps — and that there was no more money left on it. The girl also didn’t have any food left in her fridge.
“We believe that she was coming to school because they give out free lunch for kids that need it,” Snow says in the clip. “That was a [real] eye-opener for me.”
The officers said the teenager did not inform the school of her situation despite clearly needing assistance. Snow said he then picked her up from school and brought her to the station, where law enforcement got in touch with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
A DCFS representative, in turn, managed to contact the teenager’s sister, who lived out of town but came to Elgin to retrieve her.
Snow says he later took the two to a community shelter to get food but discovered that the food was stale. He and Gutierrez then took the teenager and her sister somewhere else, where the officers also bought the girl luggage.
“I was able to get her back to her house with her sister, and she was able to get into better housing and to live with some family members until she got back on her feet,” Snow tells the camera.
The department’s video has since received more than 170,000 reactions and nearly 9,000 comments.
“I was not expecting to cry,” one person wrote. “I hope everything turns out well for this young lady!”
“This video really warms my heart,” another posted. “I absolutely love the Elgin Police Department and their dedication and attentiveness and care for all people. Every call matters because every person matters.”
In an interview with the Elgin Courier-News, Ana Lalley, chief of the department, said that the girl is living out of state and doing well, adding that the video was intended to show “the police working with community members who call the police when they see something.”