Since the beginning of April, Johnnie F. Richburg, an 87-year-old World War II veteran, had been living in his car in the Pontiac City Hall parking lot. When he first arrived, he went inside City Hall and asked if they could help with housing.
Tuesday Redmond, Pontiac Community Development specialist, called Community Housing Network (CHN). CHN sent a team headed by LaVonne Spivey, housing stabilization coordinator, to meet with Johnnie and gather more information.
Read articles about this story in The Detroit News and The Oakland Press .
Debra Hendren, CHN's Housing Resource Center director, contacted the Area Agency on Aging, the Veterans Administration, and a host of other places and was awaiting responses. On Tuesday, April 10, Marc Craig, CHN president said, "Since he can afford his monthly housing payment, we need to make this work. The guy can't be homeless for another day. CHN mobilized and was able to secure funding for housing through private donations.
Johnnie had been homeless at least since the beginning of the month. He said he felt safe sleeping in his car in that lot as the Oakland County Sheriff's deputies kept an eye on him.
Housing is just one of the issues Johnnie is facing. CHN is working to see that he gets other necessary services, such as a vision test and furniture, but the first step was to get this veteran out of his car and into housing.
On April 10, CHN staff were able to move Johnnie and his possessions, which fit into his trunk, into a unit in the Bloomfield Hills Townhouses, a co-op in Pontiac.
The apartment came with a refrigerator and stove, and no furnishings. During the move, some CHN employees brought over a love seat. When they brought it in, Johnnie broke out into a grin. He sat on it and said it was way more comfortable than his car. "I love that car, it's been a good car, he said of his Impala.
He said that when he was in the service he drove the trucks of ammunition to the front line "with no headlights on in Okinawa, Japan, and was also stationed in the Philippines and New Guinea. He carries his honorary discharge papers dating back to 1946 in his wallet.
Johnnie is happy to be in his new home, and no longer living out of his car!