Homeless TN veteran gets a life-changing phone call
POSTED: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 2:26pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 20, 2014 - 2:31pm
By Katie Rufener
6/19/2014 (WREG) -- MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A homeless, disabled veteran who has been living in his car got a life-changing phone call Thursday.
WREG introduced you to Lonnie Whitfield earlier this week. Since we told you about him, e-mails have been pouring in from people, not only from people in Tennessee, but from all across the country.
Thursday, a man who is used to giving for his country received an amazing gift.
One phone call was all the Marine veteran needed to change his life.
WREG was contacted by a Florida real estate broker, Kim Caliendo, who wanted to help. News Channel 3 passed her number along to Whitfield. She had seen the story online about him living in his car after his roommate moved, leaving him no where to live.
Whitfield tried to apply for housing help through the Memphis VA, but was turned away. They said they didn't have enough housing vouchers to help him.
He said he's been trying to get back on his feet and is taking classes at a community college to become an accountant.
Caliendo said she understands Whitfield's struggle. She once had to live under a lifeguard stand on the beach. So she decided to use her connections with renters in Memphis to call and offer him help.
"We're trying to get you a year's free rent and enough money to get you some furniture," she told Whitfield over the phone.
His mouth dropped.
"Wow! Wow! Wow! Are you serious?" he asked, holding back tears.
After protecting our country, Caliendo said it is about time someone looks out for him.
It is a gift that left this veteran speechless.
"Is this a dream? It doesn't feel real," he said. "I did not expect that at all."
Whitfield hopes he can help someone else someday, the way a complete stranger helped him.
"I've been given this chance," he said. "I'm going to be sure to help someone else along down the line. We all can do more. We all can make America a little bit better."
Caliendo is working hard with her Memphis connections to get Whitfield a place to live soon. Until then, he is still living in his car.
Editor's Note: WREG's Katie Rufener loaned Whitfield her cellphone to make the call.