Disabled, homeless veteran living in his car after Memphis VA says it can’t help

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A disabled veteran and father is living out of his car, because he said the Memphis VA will not help him.

Lonnie Whitfield was living with a friend, but ran out of options when that person decided to move.

The VA sent WREG a statement explaining the programs they have in place to help people like Whitfield.

They have vouchers for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive Housing Program, or HUD-VASH as it is called.

However, they only had 380 vouchers for the Memphis and Jackson areas, and said they are currently out.

“This is my place, for right now,” disabled Marine veteran Lonnie Whitfield said sadly, motioning to his small car.  “I stay between here, and I have a friend’s house that I stay with from time to time…Wash my personal things or whatever.”

The car is not just a way to get from place to place for Whitfield, it is where he is living.

“I lost my place three weeks ago,” he said. “I have two kids that I share custody with, that stay with their mother, because I can’t do anything right now.”

Whitfield is only 28 years old.

He suffers from several mental disorders and said he never expected he would be homeless after receiving an honorable discharge from the military.

“Coming home…it’s been a big slap in the face,” he said. “Veterans don’t get treated too friendly around here.”

Whitfield is trying to get back on his feet.

He is taking accounting courses at a community college and went to the Memphis VA to apply for housing through the HUD-VASH program.

He said he was sent back and forth between VA offices four different times and was finally told they could not do anything for him, “They finally told me then that they don’t have any vouchers…that they haven’t had any in over a year.”

The VA said they do not have any vouchers available now, but hope to have 15 more for the Jackson, Memphis areas later in the summer.

Whitfield insists he is not looking for handouts, just the respect and assistance he feels he and other veterans have earned, “If everyone values their freedom, they should value the people who fought for their freedom.”

The VA said they could not talk about Whitfield’s specific request for help.

They said they do have several other programs available to help homeless vets in the area.

If you would like to reach out to Private First Class Whitfield, email us at news@wreg.com

32 comments

  • Amanda

    What a slap in the face! This man has served our country! Where’s the compensation?! Not only did he risk his life for our freedom , he compromised his mental and physical health in the process. How long is the government going to fuck these men with out even a simple “thanks for the lovely time?!” . We must take care of our soliders!

    • Tricy

      My husband was in the Army for 6 years lost his hearing and we was told he was not entitled to any help from the VA. They lost his records but we manage to find his discharge papers and he was a SPC when he left. He can’t get past an interview because he need $5000 for hearing aids. The government always fuck u in the long run.

    • Alexis

      Today I was forwarded the link to the Lonnie Whitfield story that your station is currently reporting on and felt moved to give more info about the person in question. Lonnie Whitfield may have been a Marine, but he definitely is not deserving of the title. Not only was Mr. Whitfield dishonorably discharged for drugs, and stealing government property, he used the money he was given from the military (his separations package) to gamble. Had he not been discharged, he would still be in the Marines as his rotation date isn’t until OCT 2014. I do not feel sorry for this man, there are more veterans that are definitely more deserving of this aid.

    • Alexis

      Lonnie Whitfield is a crook who got KICKED OUT of the miiitary for drug usage and stealing. I do not feel sorry for this man and you shouldn’t either. He never deployed, and had a desk job for the Supply Co at Camp Pendleton. There are vets that actually deserve this aid that can’t get it. Perhaps if this news station and other companies looked into backgrounds of ppl asking for aid, it wouldn’t get abused.

  • Belle

    maybe there needs to be research at a higher level related to how the number of vouchers are determined and are distributed to each VA facility (why has this area been so short in supply for them for so long? a year!) what funds this program? (if it’s deficient- why and since when?) and so on –sounds like there is a definite need to get to the root of the situation to better determine how corrections might be enacted to make a permanent (or at the very least a more substantial) correction to this situation –for this man, and all the others, for today, and tomorrow-because there has to be many others that have been, or will be, affected by this– and 15 more vouchers by the end of the summer is a LONG, HOT wait for a very small bandaid and obviously this is an issue that exceeds the scope of the local VA office, there is someone at a higher level that should answer

  • Doctor

    The Phoenix Veterans Administration is back in the spotlight — this time for handing out $10 million in bonuses to doctors and administrators as hundreds of veterans waited to see doctors, some dying before receiving healthcare.

  • Chere

    Wars dont guarantee our freedom. Thats a pile of shit. Sibce the fucking VA is broken, like every other governmental system, what if citizens stepped up to help by providing temporary housing and care, perhaps help navigating the impossible system. It seems this is what Jesus would do.

  • takenobull

    HE should tell the Obama government he is a ILLEGAL and get all kinds of freebies======= Disabled, homeless veteran living in his car after Memphis VA says they can’t help

  • Terrie

    Back in the 40’s people loved to take in the boys from home from the war or during a leave. The veterans were grateful and kind and weren’t ashamed to show it. The people served home cooked meals, allowed them to shower and sleep in a clean bed and they were proud to do it too. Now a day, no one will help anyone from fear that the very ones they help may slice their throats for a dollar. Rightfully so too. The ones that need the help are stranded in too many ways and the very place they were promised help from is under investigation for all kinds of felonies. Sad. The VA should fire all the thieves they have now and hire veterans, both doctors & bosses to run it from the top down. THEY are the ones that would understand and fight for fellow veterans & block the B.S. that these others have created.
    Bless you all veterans and thank you for what you have done for me.

  • Just Some Dude

    Maybe he should go cross our border from Mexico & pretend to be illegal They have shelters, free medical care, food, for them

  • beatitup

    Damm how hard is it to get vouchers in or just pay for a place to stay, this is a prime example of a big government with to many forms that have to be filled out and then they go to all these different departments before they are issued. Parents don’t let your kids join so they can get f uc ke d like this guy.

  • August

    If a homeless veteran DOES NOT convert to the extremely offensive & hostile 12-Step religious AA/NA cult, in violation of the veteran’s RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RIGHTS, the VA will leave the homeless veteran ON THE STREETS!

    Let’s Get Lonnie Whitfield HOUSED!

  • Denin

    My husband was injured in Iraq in 2006, when the caravan he was in struck an IED. He was in a coma for ten days. When he woke they had to teach him how to talk. Doctors said he would never walk again. The impact destroyed every joint on his right side, and left him whith a broken back.
    My husband is a stuburn man. He’s forced himself to walk. His knee will pop out 90° sometimes, and he’s constanly in pain. The VA has never done the operation to help him recover!
    To add insult to injury, in 2012 they cut off his disability payments. He’s being told something was done wrong in the paper, and now they’re auditing?!
    It’s been over two years now. I’ve been the provider for our family. Everyday is harder for my husband. He has stated he should kill himself, because he’s not a man anymore. He can’t support his family.
    I don’t know what else to do. VA is a horrible aid to our veterans, and no one deserves to deal with them.

    • NCOWife2

      My husband has a serious injury, too and the VA (and the active duty army) has absolutely refused proper procedures. They have told him that there are no options, but when I have explained that I have gone to medical school, the lie changes and then they say the treatment is not proven. In his case, the treatment was proven over 20 years ago. While VA care is bad, active duty care is a band-aid treatment worse, especially when soldiers are under the false impression that they are receiving top care. Wait hours at the ER range from 9 hours to over 16 hours. I have broken bones and refused to go to the ER. However, family members are NOT treated under the insurance program (Tricare) for many serious ailments, including Pneumonia, and some cancers. There is a huge number of pending malpractice cases for the active army family members AND for anyone that thinks that healthcare is free, premiums come out of their salaries and unlike the civilian sector, it has been expensive for decades, nearly twice the amount than when I held family insurance in the civilian sector.

    • NCOWife2

      Honey, sue them! You will have a lot of people tell you that you can not sue. That was the old military. Yes, you can sue and people have been winning since 2001. They (VA) are wrong…plain wrong.

  • luvbreamfishin'

    Wait,,what? why can’t you help this man? This man went over there,,risked his life and now the VA cannot help him? But our screwed up worthless government has open arms for how many thousands of illegal aliens and lowlife lazy welfare cheats?

  • Navy Vet

    My husband and I were both homeless veterans. Right when I got out of the Navy ( I was forced out due to force reduction) after I was active duty for 11 years and we were both in the reserves. We lived in a tent with our 3 kids and dog. After the Navy paid me the money they owed me, we moved into a camper. No one would rent to us because we had only drill pay for income, we did have $40,000 in the bank, but no one cared. After 4 months, we finally found an apartment in Munford.

  • connie

    How sad, here you have a young man fighting in a war for our freedom and you cannot show him some respect by giving him the help he deserves. But you have no problem with helping people that do not need help(people who want to milk system). They deserve our help. They risk their lives, even die for us.

  • bigmemphis

    As a ten year navy veteran, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that anything was guaranteed from my honorable discharge. The VA is not a welfare system, and many veterans need to quit treating it like a lottery and man up.

  • bigmemphis

    I wish that the VA would take a hard look at weeding out the freeloaders so they can help the veterans that actually need help. Reform is needed in this area too.

  • Mikey

    How can we get ahold of this man? I wouldn’t mind donating and asking friends and family to donate for a place to stay at like extended stay for about a month so he can get back on his feet! Give the veteran what he deserves!

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