Local veterans get homeowners assistance thanks to program initiatives

On a rainy first of March, Marty Johnson is welcoming guests into his new home.

It’s the first home he’s had since he left the army years ago. The guests? The people who helped him make this happen: members of Veterans Bridge Home, Charlotte Elks Lodge and A Place for Heroes.

They’ve brought a welcome kit with all the necessities of home: new dishes, towels, cleaning supplies and lots of other items.

After living paycheck to paycheck in a boarding house, Johnson is overcome with emotion.

“It’s been a long time since I could actually come home and feel free and it was mine. And not only mine but for my daughters as well so it’s amazing.”

No longer living in a rented room filled with bugs, Johnson says he’s blessed and he credits the woman he considers his angel: Miss Terri Howard. She created A Place for Heroes after hearing a family member talk about the high number of homeless veterans.

“I wanted them to have safety,” she says. “To feel comfortable. To be able to regain their lives with pride. No one can regain their lives without having their basic needs met.”

Her non-profit has found homes for dozens of veterans, and she does it all without any donations although she’s hoping that will soon change. For John Herring, getting the keys to his new home is much needed relief after spending weeks without one.

The Navy veteran and his family were surviving in a hotel after medical bills left them unable to pay rent. His wife Donella says it wasn’t pleasant.

“It was infested with mice and cockroaches and black mold. We left all our furniture there.”

Hearing what this veteran and his family have gone through is difficult for Veterans Bridge Home’s Patrick Hayes.

“It hurts, it hurts a lot and we feel like we’ve failed. That we’ve failed as a society. No one should live in those conditions.”

Their work is getting results for veterans, however, and partnering with other like-minded groups makes it even more effective. Michael Flock was on hand to deliver the hand picked and hand packed kit on behalf of the Charlotte Elks Lodge.

Michael says, “Its fun to go out and shop and try to imagine what somebody needs when they move into a place and they don’t have anything.”

Seeing the faces of these veterans in need fills the hearts of their fellow brothers in arms. Thomas Jacobs of Veterans Bridge Home says, “It’s great to know that one of our brothers who was left behind, we were able to bring him up and give him a place to stay.”

Donella says she’s just grateful her prayers were answered.

“I’m very very thankful that you guys care, that someone cares. We felt like no one cares.”

 Donations can be made to A Place for Heroes by visiting Diana Alvear’s Facebook page.