Veterans services and veterans advocacy groups worked Monday to get help for an 84-year-old veteran who had faced eviction and homelessness.
The Rock Hill chapter of Rolling Thunder, a veterans advocacy group, had $500 in gift cards and cash for the veteran, and was organizing more to help the man long-term.
The veteran faced homelessness last week in sub freezing temperatures, had it not been for some fast-acting law enforcement officers.
And as people mobilized to help him, some of the veteran’s belongings were thrown in a trash container and hauled away Monday from the house where he lived on Eden Terrace, across the street from Winthrop Coliseum. Court records show the eviction was legal, even if one of the people affected was “too frail to be put out into the cold,” as police put it.
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“I drove by the house last week and saw all the stuff thrown in a heap outside and like anybody else, I didn’t know what happened until I read it in The Herald,” said Al Guest, president of Rock Hill’s Rolling Thunder chapter and a Vietnam War combat veteran. “Then when I read that he was a veteran and evicted, and could have frozen outside, I was upset.”
The story published in The Herald spread through social media and has been shared and commented on hundreds of times.
The York County Veterans Affairs office in Rock Hill is serving as a point of contact for those who want to help the veteran, said Melinda Woodhurst, York County veterans service officer. Other advocacy groups, such as the VFW and American Legion, are assisting.
“We are here to connect veterans to the benefits they have earned, but sometimes we need to pull together resources from other places,” Woodhurst said. “This is one of those times. We are coordinating community resources to assess and help this veteran.”
Woodhurst, a decorated combat veteran from the Iraq War who retired as a colonel after almost three decades service before taking the veterans job, said she can’t identify the veteran because of privacy laws, but she said her office knows the veteran evicted is receiving benefits.
The Herald has learned the identity of the veteran from several sources but, citing confidentiality laws, law enforcement officers, the S.C. Department of Social Services officials and hospital officials did not confirm the name.
The veteran told police money was missing from his bank accounts, a bank card had been stolen, and money from benefits that he had for rent and utilities was missing.
“The police helped him and he may have been swindled out of his money,” Guest said. “There were some choice words used for someone ... who would take an elderly veteran’s money. You can’t print those words in the newspaper.”
The York County Veterans Affairs office in Rock Hill is helping the veteran with short-term needs and coordinating long-term help to avoid homelessness.
The veteran remains at Piedmont Medical Center under an emergency protective custody order that police used last week to give him a place to stay during sub-freezing temperatures.
The veteran lived in the house, but is not the person the landlord leased the house to, court records show. The landlord filed a lawsuit against the person who had the lease when that person failed to pay rent for several months, court records show.
Those court records show that the property from the house can be placed outside at the street for cleanup and the items can be removed after 48 hours. A contractor hired to clean the property filled a mobile container with furniture and other belongings Monday.
Capt. Mark Bollinger of the Rock Hill Police Department said an investigation is ongoing, and includes focusing on whether someone may have violated South Carolina’ elder abuse law by not paying the rent for the veteran and possibly taking his money.
Want to help?
▪ Contact the York County Veterans Affairs Office at 803-909-7525, or go to the office at 529 S. Cherry Road, Rock Hill.
▪ The veteran is in the custody of the S.C. Department of Social Services adult services division, and a fund also was set up at York County’s DSS office, said spokesperson Marilyn Matheus. To donate, contact York County DSS, c/o Myra Drennan, 933 Heckle Blvd, Rock Hill, S.C. 29732, or call 803-909-7446.
▪ Amber Clark, commander of VFW Post 2889 in Rock Hill, set up a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/helping-a-local-veteran-in-need