Valdosta Daily Times

January 13, 2014

Help pours in for Ga. veteran living in van

The Associated Press

MARIETTA — Hundreds of people have stepped up to help a homeless veteran who’s been living in his van along with his 7-year-old dog after losing his home to foreclosure.

The Marietta Daily Journal reported Sunday that John Chambers, 65, lost his house in January 2013 and has lived in a Walmart parking lot since then. Chambers said he was evicted without warning, lost his job after his employer learned he was homeless and has had trouble finding alternative housing through the Veterans Administration.

Chambers is a former architectural draftsman who served in Vietnam and helped build facilities for U.S. troops in Iraq as a private contractor. The veteran’s home is now owned by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., also known as Freddie Mac. Chambers sued the corporation, claiming that he was wrongfully evicted without proper notice and was led to believe he was being placed in a loan modification program.

Freddie Mac spokesman, Brad German, says the corporation doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The newspaper published a story explaining Chambers’ situation earlier this week as he prepared to spend another night in his van while the region was hit with sub-freezing temperatures and wind chills. Since then, hundreds of people have offered money, temporary shelter and food for his dog, Scout, he said.

“I’m so overwhelmed I really don’t know what to say,” Chambers told the newspaper before checking into an extended stay hotel room being paid for by the American Legion Post 29 in Marietta.

“Tons of people have come out to the car, dropping off food, cards, asking how they can help, telling me I could stay the night in their house. This is surreal. I don’t want to be in the limelight, really. I’m a little uncomfortable by it. But it humbles me. People coming by, giving me money, giving me groceries. People have been coming out of the woodwork all day,” he said.

The service officer for Post 29 of the American Legion, Ken Buechel, said the group’s goal is to help Chambers find a new job and get back on his feet. Metro Atlanta real estate agent, Melody Unger, and her attorney have also formed a nonprofit group to try saving Chambers’ home.  

“She’s trying to get investors to actually buy my house, which would be my best bet because I’d like to drop this lawsuit like a hot potato,” Chamber said. He’s spent more than $22,000 in legal fees trying to save his house.  

Despite falling on hard times and facing uncertainty, Chambers said the outpouring of support has rekindled his optimism.

“I was getting into a bitter state but it’s a whole new world out there and I have a new life because of this,” he said. “Just to have found one person in this world like all of the ones I’ve run into so far would have been enough to change my outlook. And here I’ve found more than a hundred.”