Our housing crisis has a face...don't ever forget them

Real Estate Broker/Owner with LKN Realty, LLC 242267

Homeless Veteran


As I drove in the driveway my heart sank.  The front yard had an old arched arbor with dead plants barely clinging to it.  There was a weathered wooden sign welcoming all that drop by.  The names on the once cheerful sign were John and Shirley.  At one time this must of been a cheerful and colorful garden while Shirley was still alive.

I took a deep breath and rung the doorbell.  Expecting an elderly man I was surprised to be greeted warmly by a man, who he later told me, was only 60 years old. 

Before I even entered the dark home that was awaiting me I was hit with the horrible, stale and overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke.  (My Realtor mind was thinking already about how to make this home sale-able.)

The living room looked like it had not been touched in years.  It was full of furniture that I'm certain had been placed there by Shirley.  As a matter of fact, the entire house felt like time had stood still since her death.

John and I sat at their kitchen table and he started to tell his story.  He needed to tell his story.  He was a Vietnam Vet with mounting medical bills that the VA seemed to be unwilling to take care of and he is unable to work.  His oldest son had lost his job and couldn't help his dad by paying rent.  

John had all of his important papers spread out on the table as if to make sure he did not forget or loose them.  There was his mortgage statement that he proudly showed me while explaining that he was current on his payments and how much he owed.  Then he quietly told me he had enough money for about 3 months.

John said he had been unable to pay for his prescriptions, food and his mortgage so he had cut back on the medication he so needed.

I had assumed, since this was a referral from an Elder Law attorney, that I was going to have to figure out a way for him to sell the home.  I was looking around with a heavy heart trying to make a mental note of everything that would have to be done to prepare it for sale, knowing that we most likely would not be able to sell it for the balance of his mortgage.

That's when John surprised me by adamantly telling he that he did NOT want to sell.  He wanted to lease his home of 30 years rather than give it up. I asked him where he would go and John said he would move in with his sister.

When I told John that I would have our expert leasing agent work with him since our office doesn't allow us to handle leases, he carefully wrote down his name and the date he should call him because he was afraid he would forget.  His hands were shaking so badly he could hardly write.

When we got up to leave he shook his head and said "I don't know how my wife did it.  How do you work, take care of the family, cook and clean?  I just can't do it all."  At the door we shared a firm and warm handshake.  As the door closed behind me I couldn't help but picture John walking slowly back to his chair.

Since then I met with our leasing agent who thinks, if we fix the home up, he will be able to lease it. I told him I wanted to help and would recruit members of the community to help.  I couldn't stand by and do nothing. 

Where had the systems failed?  I may never know the whole story but I do know that there are probably many other John's out there.  This economic crisis isn't about large banks and auto makers, it's about the forgotten victims.  As Realtors I hope we can somehow make a difference in their lives.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
ActiveRain Community
Giving Back
Fraiche Aire
Selling Soulfully
POSITIVE ATTITUDE for the Weary Soul
economic crisis
homeless vets

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Susie Blackmon
Ocala, FL
Ocala, Horses, Western Wear, Horse Farms, Marketing

That is very sad. We are too busy bailing out every body but our Veterans and the elderly who can't afford medical care.

Dec 27, 2008 05:52 AM #1
Terry & Bonnie Westbrook
Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner - Grand Rapids, MI
Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re

We need to reevaluate our priorities and take care of the people that took care of us.

Dec 27, 2008 06:08 AM #2
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Diane, this is a reminder of how tenuous life is.  All of us live by the daily grace of God.  Stories like this are a reminder of the importance of caring for the needs of others.  Because in a real sense, as we do so, we're also caring for ourselves.  I'm grateful that John has someone to help him...so many unfortunately do not.

Dec 27, 2008 06:28 AM #3
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Diane, Bless you for trying to help this poor person stay in his home.  Dated or not it is HIS HOME and he obviously loves it.  I truly hope everything works out for him, this story touched my heart.

Dec 27, 2008 10:48 AM #4
Diane Aurit
LKN Realty, LLC - Mooresville, NC
Lake Norman Real Estate

Susie:  Our veterans deserve so much more!

Terry: A great New Year's resolution!

Lola:  Thank you for your thoughtful comment...how many others are out there?

Carole:  Thank you, he truly touched me.  I hope we can help him.

Dec 27, 2008 11:32 PM #5
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Diane, why not contact International ? You know Dave has a great program for vets, he has a passion for them? They help them find jobs and I would let them know to see if they could help out.

Dec 29, 2008 12:09 PM #6
Diane Aurit
LKN Realty, LLC - Mooresville, NC
Lake Norman Real Estate

Missy:  That's a great idea!  I was referred to him by an attorney so I am hoping she is helping him too.

Deborah:  Great to hear from you....it has been a very long time!  Are you working hard on your art?

Jan 05, 2009 07:35 AM #8
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Diane Aurit

Lake Norman Real Estate
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