Officer Carlos Ibarra had received calls from dispatch like this one before: a family in need of food and a place to stay.
Usually it amounted to a husband and wife and maybe a kid or two, max.
But the Portland, Oregon, cop wasn’t prepared for scene he encountered Sunday afternoon when he arrived to help one particular family.
It was a dad…with seven kids.
The man apparently piled his children in a van and drove back to Portland from Arizona after things didn’t work out there, and returned to the house they used to live in, hoping they’d find someone there they knew — but no luck.
So the dad called the police for help. But he didn’t speak much English, which led the police dispatcher to contact Ibarra to assist.
“They were running around in the driveway playing ball,” Ibarra told KATU-TV when he arrived to help at the family’s former house. “It seems to me like they never left, mentally. This is where the kids want to be.”
The family had housing options for the week, KATU reported, just not for Sunday night. So Ibarra spent four hours with them, figuring out what they needed, and contacting shelters.
“A lot of the places I was calling I wasn’t getting anyone on the phone,” he told KATU, “Just voicemail to call back during the week.”
Ibarra then called motels. Most couldn’t accommodate a group of eight, but the officer hit paydirt with a Motel 6.
Except for yet another problem: The $70 bill for the night.
So Ibarra dug deep and footed the bill out of his own pocket.
“I just couldn’t imagine going home to my comfortable bed and air conditioning while those seven kids are sleeping in their van in this hot weather,” he told KATU. “This would be my way of helping them get some rest and some hope for tomorrow when they could find some more help getting a more permanent place to stay.”
But that’s not all.
When Ibarra inquired about the last time they’d eaten, the dad replied that his kids “had some bread on the way up … maybe the day before,” he recalled.
So the officer went to the police department’s Sunshine Division and brought back a basket of food for the family.
“When I walked in with the food, the kids started tearing into the cans,” Ibarra recalled. “They didn’t even warm up the soup. Nothing. Everything was just going straight into their mouths.”
Later, the anonymous KATU viewer who tipped the station regarding Ibarra’s story donated $30 toward the motel bill, noting the officer’s efforts were “quite incredible.”
Ibarra said the family is now getting assistance for a more permanent residence from a local church.
The 28-year-old officer isn’t married and has no children, but he said seeing those kids at play — and without a roof over their heads for the night — touched his heart.
Still, Ibarra said, “any officer would jump at the opportunity to help this family.”