YUCAIPA (AP) — Joy Anderson thought she and her adult son would spend Christmas like they do each year, eating and sleeping in the compact car they call home and maybe listening to Christmas carols on the radio.
But, The Press-Enterprise reports that some San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies had a different idea.
The Yucaipa-based deputies got the mother and son temporary shelter at a nearby motel, a Christmas dinner at Denny’s and showered them with gift cards that Anderson says will feed them for up to six weeks.
“It’s wonderful,” said Anderson, 70, while sitting on the edge of a real bed, something she’s not slept in for three months. “I never expected anything close to this.”
Anderson and her 42-year-old son, who deputies described as developmentally disabled, lived in a house in Redlands for 26 years. But after her second marriage ended, she had trouble affording the mortgage on her paycheck as a nurse’s assistant and she lost the home.
Mother and son moved to Idaho for a while to stay with friends then rented a two-bedroom house with the option to buy it, until she lost her job four years ago.
They packed up their 2006 Ford and moved back to California because “we had nowhere to go,” she said. And they lived in the car until it was totaled earlier this year. An insurance settlement paid for several months at a motel room and the $2,400 to buy a 1999 Honda Civic, which has been home ever since.
Anderson sleeps in the back seat and her son in the front, but it’s a tight squeeze. They use local restaurants and parks for restrooms, Starbucks to charge her son’s cellphone, and a small monthly Social Security stipend and food stamps for meals. They sleep in a park-and-ride lot, where officers on patrol have come to recognize them.
At 11 a.m. on Christmas two patrol cars pulled up alongside the Civic in the park-and ride lot, including a female deputy she recognized chatting with a couple months prior.
“She said ‘Merry Christmas. We want to help you,’” Anderson recounted. “She said, ‘We’re going to get you a motel room for four nights.’”
“I said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, and Merry Christmas to you too.’”
The deputies drove her and her son to Yu-Cal Motel where deputies realized they’d collected several hundred dollars, enough to pay for five nights and a Christmas dinner at Denny’s.
The deputies returned later that Christmas night with canned goods and at least $200 in gift cards.
“It’s wonderful to be able to stretch your legs out” at night, she said, brushing at her eyes emotionally. “My son would love it if this would go on forever, but that’s impossible.”
They’re due to check out Tuesday.