Jim Reynolds and his fellow private investigators would often get calls from distraught families whose loved ones had disappeared among the homeless communities in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. But not everyone could afford their services.
“We said, ‘Okay, you know what, we’ll set up a nonprofit and we will definitely help you,’” said Reynold, founder of Find Homeless People.
According to Reynolds, since its inception in 2019, Find Homeless People has reunited over 100 people with their families.
“What motivated us was that we just saw this ever present need to help reunite those that are homeless with their loved ones,” Reynolds said.
He explained that people with mental health issues can sometimes suddenly leave their homes and jobs while cutting off all contact with their families. This leaves distressed families to frantically search for their loved ones among the massive homeless population in the state.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, in 2022 a total of 69,144 people experiencing homelessness were counted in LA County in 2022. Orange County counted 5,718 people experiencing homelessness in 2022.
Reynolds said that by the time some families reach out to him for help, anywhere from a couple of days to a couple years may have passed since the person went missing.
Find Homeless People’s website contains a list of places families can call and check for their loved ones, including hospitals, jails and homeless shelters. After a family contacts them, the organization will also offer to create fliers of the missing person and distribute them to areas frequented by unhoused people.
The nonprofit asks unhoused people for permission to add their photos and information to Find Homeless People’s online database. Along with their photo, the database also contains specific information for families about where the person was last seen.
Since it can be hard to keep track of someone experiencing homelessness, Find Homeless People makes special note of where each homeless person they speak to receives services, such as shelters that offer food and showers. That way, if someone recognizes someone from the online database, the nonprofit knows where to start searching.
“They’re overwhelmed, they just can’t thank us enough,” Reynolds said of families that are reunited with their loved ones.
Find Homeless People’s mission has expanded from its original purpose of reuniting families with their missing loved ones. The nonprofit is now also involved in distributing food, clothing and hygiene supplies.
Reynolds said that Find Homeless People was recently approved for a program with T-Mobile, which will allow them to also start distributing free phones and iPads to unhoused people.
For its next event, Find Homeless People is teaming up with the Central Neighborhood Health Foundation to provide a free medical clinic for people experiencing homelessness. People who attend will be able to receive COVID-19 testing, physical exams, staple/suture removal, refills of basic medications and wound care free of charge.
“When you are feeding people who don’t have food and they’re starving, and you bring them food, it’s tremendously satisfying,” Reynolds said. “When you’re able to bring them medical care they just can’t get for a variety of reasons, again, tremendously satisfying.”
Find Homeless People’s office is located at 111 W Ocean Blvd. To contact Find Homeless People, call 562-472-0222 or visit findhomelesspeople.org/contact-us/.