NEW ORLEANS – A group of volunteers got together Tuesday to help an Army veteran get back on his feet.
To step into Henry Johnson's house, is to step right back into the months after Katrina. The house is gutted, there's no power or water, and the debris inside led Americorps member Emily Dolin to wear a face mask as she helped clean up.
"I can't believe that he's been living like this," she said. "I can't believe that people have survived living this long. It's outrageous in my mind. I have no choice but to help him."
Johnson served in the Army in Europe in the mid-1950s and has been living at the home in the Seventh Ward for nearly four decades. After Katrina flooded the place, he said a contractor took his money and only gutted the home.
"No water, no electricity, this has got to be pretty rough. Well, it's been my life, World War II when I was a kid was rough, it was rough by birth, been rough from my birth to now," Johnson said. "I am enduring. I tried to get him to rebuild it, okay, take it down and put it back together, and all they did was rip off my money."
He’s now in a wheelchair, and neighbors emailed the Action Line.
"I responded as quickly as humanly possible, and when I got here I was absolutely devastated by what I saw," said SBP's Carol Ramm-Gramenz.
SBP, formerly known as the St. Bernard Project, is already working with a number of veterans, and they depend on donations to help them. When they met Johnson they knew something had to be done to change his life.
"The next step is to get this place habitable so it is not dangerous to him, and to try to get some resources in here to assist him in terms of what he's going to need to be able to live independently if that's what he wants," Ramm-Gramenz.explained.
They brought him some of the comforts of home, the first of the changes they want to make in Johnson’s life.
"It's very comfortable because I find comfortable anywhere I'm at, doing anything I'm doing," Johnson said.
A tough man enduring tough times, now getting help.
To help SBP help veterans including Henry Johnson, call the agency at 277-6831, or visit their website at http://www.sbpusa.org.
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