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The Trenches at Home: Alameda Police Cite Homeless Veteran, Regret Not Offering Help

Veteran homeless is a problem across the nation, but we’ll focus our attention on the City of Alameda in California. While Alameda itself doesn’t have much of a problem with homelessness it is very close to the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Still, it’s a nice little island town, close to the ocean and it seemed like a nice place for homeless veteran Aaron Colyer to park his van while he gets his life together.

Colyer recorded his interaction with police the night of July 24, where he received a citation for living in his vehicle, which according to ThinkProgress.org violates a city law against “Unlawful Camping.” In the video Colyer tells the officers he is homeless, has PTSD, and that he’s a veteran. One of the officers involved, Officer Weiss, said he was a former Marine and replied “Semper fi,” the Marine motto which means “always faithful. Colyer’s video of the incident has received almost 10,000 views on YouTube.

City of Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri spoke to Issue Hawk over the phone about the incident. He said that he believes his officers acted appropriately. Their interaction with Colyer was not based on any citizen complaint, and in matters such as these officers have discretion about whether or not to issue a citation.

However Chief Rolleri also thinks they made a mistake, after the citation was issued. He told us, “We absolutely can and should do a better job to offer services” to all of the homeless, veteran or otherwise. “I regret that happened,” he adds.

According to Colyer’s social media pages, he turned himself in to Contra Costa sheriff because of an outstanding warrant slightly more than a year ago. Since then, Colyer seems to have been committed to fixing his life, especially reconnecting with his infant son. He wrote, “If I could have spared an arrest I think I would have made [the Alameda police] arrest me for refusing to sign the ticket but all I care about at this point in my life is seeing my little one.” He vows to fight the ticket in court. He has since found temporary housing.

Also according to Chief Rolleri, near where Colyer was sleeping an abandoned naval base (of Star Trek IV fame) is set to be repurposed by the VA. Last June, Colyer wrote about this base on his Facebook page, saying “There is a closed down naval base in Alameda that has hundreds of unused buildings… Veterans are homeless while military bases sit vacant.”

Photo via Facebook, Colyer and his service dog Captain near the beach where he slept.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.