NCIS star Pauley Perrette’s path to stardom was paved by bartending with a pink mohawk, wearing a sandwich board, rolling around on roller-skates passing out fliers for Taco Bell, and toiling as a cruise boat cook. Although she had a goal to become a forensic scientist, her career path took a turn when her friend introduced her to an advertising agency director. From that point on, Perrette became an actress building her career with commercials, small roles, and eventually–and ironically– hitting it big as the punky forensic scientist, Abby Sciuto on the mega hit television series NCIS. Perrette’s success lead to her recently purchasing a house in the Hollywood Hills–and unfortunately, on that same street, she was viciously attacked by a transient this past November.

“I literally got attacked and pinned and punched and almost killed by a schizophrenic homeless person tonight,” Perrette said. She described how her assailant repeatedly told her he was going to kill her; he also kept repeating that his name was William. Believing he would indeed follow through with his plan, and being completely overpowered by him, she quickly tried to change his line of thinking, telling him that she has a little nephew named William. Thankfully, Perrette’s strategy worked; the man let her go, “I went into shock. Collapsed on the sidewalk,” the traumatized star said.

The LAPD located and arrested the suspect for false imprisonment by violence; he has since pleaded not guilty. But instead of focussing on being a victim herself, Perrette is using this incident to draw attention to the growing problem of homelessness especially in Hollywood. In fact, the homeless problem is so severe that the city of Los Angeles has declared a State of Emergency. Serving as an advocate, Pauley told CNN that homeless individuals “are human beings instead of a statistic or a number. Each one is a different story.” She insists that her assailant needs help, and she perceives him as a victim. “It was heartbreaking to me to think about him wandering around out there on the street,” she said, and stated that she discovered his family has considered him missing for fourteen years.

“My heart breaks for that guy, and it breaks for every single person that’s out there on the streets especially with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, and also for our police department, you know, like we have our Hollywood division is, I’m a huge supporter, and they’re really wonderful, they deal with this every single day,” Perrette said.