San Mateo police on Thursday hosted a Christmas dinner, complete with Santa Claus and gifts, at a homeless shelter in San Mateo.
"Tonight we're going to have — we call it the 'Policeman's Ball,'" said Dan Brown, a resident of the Vendome Hotel.
Brown, a retired San Mateo resident living on his Social Security payments, has been a resident for more than four years. Before that, he lived out of a shopping cart and city garages.
"I couldn’t afford to stay anywhere that’s why I was homeless. There was no options," Brown said.
Left on the streets after the home he had been renting a room in was repossessed, he fortunately found a vacant room at the Vendome Hotel on Second Avenue.
"I was never so thrilled in my life," Brown recalled.
City police officers refer many of the hotel's residents to the LifeMoves self-sufficiency program after repeated nuisance crimes.
Brown now spends one-third of his income on a private room and common space at the converted hotel and says the shelter's facilities are as good as it gets for homeless individuals.
"People live here as long as they can, because the location is excellent. They treat you very well," Brown said. "People don’t move out. They renew their lease and they stay another year. Believe me, it’s too nice of a place to move out."
Not far from the San Mateo Police Station, officers spend time at the shelter talking and spending time with the residents throughout the year.
"There used to be a lot of nuisance crimes, a lot of calls for service, kind of a drain on resources, but once we were able to get them housed, all those calls went away almost to nothing and we don’t have any calls with the residents here anymore," Officer David Johnson said. "They’re part of the community."
Every Thanksgiving, the LifeMoves-operated shelter invites police officers over for dinner, and Christmas is the officers' turn to bring the turkey, Johnson said.
One officer's family donates food from their restaurant, Harry's Hofbrau, and the police do the serving.
“We have a good time. It’s a true joy and wonderful thing to be accepted in here and live here," Brown said.