Entertainment And News

Bank Kicks 90-Year-Old Veteran Out Of His Home, But A Kind Man Steps In To Save Him From Homelessness

Photo: GoFundMe
Johnnie Hodges Sr.

A WWII Navy veteran faced an alarming reality after getting an eviction notice due to unpaid mortgage payments as a result of outstanding medical bills.

Johnnie Hodges Sr., a 90-year-old veteran, had lived in his Buffalo, New York home for almost 60 years and had made countless memories with his late wife, Flora, and their two children. Facing the stark reality of homelessness, a compassionate stranger managed to step in and save the day.

The bank evicted the 90-year-old veteran from his home after 60 years due to unpaid bills.

After serving in WWII, Hodges Sr. worked at Bethlehem Steel for decades, where he was the first African-American foreman before the company eventually shut down the plant. Afterward, he worked part-time as a bus driver before retiring in his 80s to become Flora’s full-time caregiver when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 

It was during this time, living on a fixed income and with bills piling up, that his finances spiraled out of control and his house went into foreclosure. In July 2015, police showed up at Hodges Sr.'s home, informing him that he needed to vacate immediately due to missed mortgage payments following the death of Flora in July 2014. However, Hodges Sr. refused.

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"He told the police officers, 'Put the handcuff on me and take me,'" Johhnie's daughter Robin Hodges told The Washington Post. "They wouldn’t do that."

Since Hodges Sr. refused to leave, Buffalo police and ambulance workers carried him out of the two-story property on a stretcher. They transported him to a Veterans Affairs hospital for mental health evaluation. While out of the home, Hodges Sr.'s home was emptied of all his possessions and movers took everything, packed them into boxes, and put them into moving vans to bring to a storage facility.

"There was nothing wrong with him emotionally or physically. His faculties are really good," Hodges added, who watched the entire incident that day. "That’s the only home that I know about. That’s where I grew up."

   

   

While speaking with ABC News, Hodges admitted that her father never informed her or her brother about the missed mortgage payments or her late mother's medical bills. She knew that he was focused on taking care of Flora, but was unaware that her childhood home had been in foreclosure. 

"As long as they didn't try to hurt him, just as long as my dad was OK, I was fine," Hodges told ABC News. "That’s his house. He just did not feel like he should leave. He's 90 years old. It's been his house for almost 60 years where my mom and him had so many memories."

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Hodges Sr.'s eviction story ended up running in the local news, where it caught the attention of a stranger.

In Williamsville, New York, Greg Elwood read about Hodges Sr.'s eviction from his home and felt an immediate emotional connection to the entire situation. He felt devastated that Hodges Sr. owed the bank at least $100,000 in missed payments and fees. On top of that, there were also tens of thousands owed in additional liens on the property.

Dedicated to helping Hodges Sr. find a solution, in December 2015, Elwood started a crowdfunding page to help the elderly veteran get out of the temporary apartment he was living in and back into his home. The GoFundMe campaign was originally created with the goal of $50,000, but he was surprised when in just five months, $111,000 was donated.

90-Year-Old Veteran Was Evicted From His Home But A Kind Man Saved Him From HomelessnessPhoto: Iurii Maksymiv / Canva Pro

"Our original goal was $50,000, that was the amount that Hodges needed to purchase the home back," Elwood told ABC News. "It's just a wonderful feeling to know that he'll be back in that home to be able to celebrate the holidays with the family."

"He has a lot of memories in that home. It's very clear he was close with his late wife Flora and I just feel good knowing that he's at peace."

On the GoFundMe campaign, Elwood urged people to help Hodges Sr. save his home, as he had risked his life to fight for this country in WWII. "He fought for us in WWII and now he needs our help to fight for his home!"

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The donations worked, and Hodges Sr. and Hodges were able to meet Elwood face-to-face on the elderly veteran's front porch for his "Welcome Home" party thrown by his local community. Both Hodges and her dad were overwhelmed with gratitude at the kindness of a complete stranger, who managed to save his home and all of the memories that were made in it.

"I can't say enough about Elwood," Hodges gushed. "From day one he's had a heart of gold. He just wanted to help and it touched so many people." 

For the holidays that year, Hodges admitted that she, her father, and her three children would be joining Elwood and his family to spend time with each other. As for Hodges Sr., he remarked that he was just happy to be back in his home.

   

   

"I feel really good about the donations that everybody gave," Hodges Sr. said. "I'm always happy when I'm in my home. I walk around, sit on my porch when it’s a nice day and I enjoy the nice weather and my friends will come by... there's no place like home."

Greg Elwood's good deed proves that all it takes sometimes is the kindness and empathy of a stranger to help someone get back on their feet and that there is power in a community coming together to do the right thing.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.