Homeless veteran living in his car gets a life-changing phone call

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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.

Caliendo saw our story on wreg.com about Whitfield living in his car after his roommate moved, leaving him nowhere to live.

Whitfield tried to apply for housing help through the Memphis VA, but was told there were no more 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 because she once had to live under a lifeguard stand on the beach.

She decided to use her connections with renters in Memphis to call and offer him help.

“We’re trying to get you a year of 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, until then, he is still living in his car.

A donation website set up for Lonnie Whitfield: http://www.gofundme.com/aigr84

Editor’s Note: WREG’s Katie Rufener loaned Whitfield her cellphone to make the call.


  • 1midtownmike

    Why are illegals moved to the front of the line at United States borders but veterans are swept under the rug when it comes to the debt our country owes them?

    • Carol

      It’s called ‘ a kick back’. These officials don’t get anything back when they help their own only when they help the other side.

  • Carol

    It’s called ‘ a kick back’. These officials don’t get anything back when they help their own only when they help the other side.

  • beatitup

    To bad it takes the people to help and not our government they would rather help welfare queens and illegals. Thank you for the lady who helped one of our true American heroes. The people need to rise up and fire all of these professional a holes in Washington.

    • Joe

      Thats not too bad, thats awesome! Our gov’t does not need to because a charity. The last thing we need is more welfare recipients draining our economy dry when our gov’t can’t even pay for it. The gov’t isn’t the rich company that gives you everything, they are in trillion dollar debt and our nation will be shattered if they fall into bankruptcy.

      We are a doomed nation when charity falls out of the hands of churches and the community, and starts becoming the responsibility of the government.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    AWESOME, AWESOME!! best of luck to u, mr. whItfIeld!!! u fully deserve It and thanks royally to the reporter who loaned hIm her ph for that!!!

  • hank wesson

    this is right on time for Mr. Whitfield best wishes and all the best to all involed in helping this young man as i said before my wife and i have been homeless

  • Dr. JohnS

    I read the comments on this page and it seems there are people too small not to bring a racist attitude to their comments. Does it hurt just to say “what a great deed she did with this young man.” You do not have to slur another group of people to offer congratulations – if you were not a small minded person you would not.

  • jason

    This man is not homeless! Yes the government should help our vertan but what is he doing to help himself? Another example of someone getting over on people as you see folks having 5 kids just to stay on welfare! He does have a place to stay. Follow him after school or where ever his last stop to see where he parks his car and lay his head. It’s not in his car but rather a warm bed. Stop using people! Be smarter investigate what people report. This is FACT!

      • jason

        Investigate I swear you will have a change of heart. Also, why not go to Alpha Omega? Folks have offered you programs and he refused he doesn’t want rules. He live with family. But again the system showing Justice in wrong situation. They don’t help those who need it. Give him a drug test! But you’re past that. I just pray when someone who really needs help you help them. I’m defined sad by b this because tge truth has yet to come out.

  • jason

    Tax payers and honest people have it so much worse! We can’t get decent health care. We can’t get assistance when we have a low point but we have folks such as Mr. Whitfield who continues to manipulate the system. As a news station don’t you investigate? Help those who need it. A father whom was laid off and can’t feed his family. A single mother working two jobs but her health fails and need bill money. Or better yet cancer patients who request for help when they are out of work. We don’t! Alphea Omega is a great service with rooms available why not go there? Shelters, why not go there? No, that’s too easy. He rather get a hand out which is not fair to tax payers. Again investigate!

    • kim@kimcaliendo.com

      FYI, I AM a single mother with cancer and no child support and no govt. assistance and I WAS homeless once and I ironically was helped by a realtor. Just paying it forward. Quit whining. The man was a Marine and served his country. What have you done lately?

    • jason

      In their mansions. But this is an example of why you can’t always help every time you see a news story. This story is 100% false. Not only that the Bible states you don’t go to the church for help. Your family should help you first and then you seek the church. But it is not the obligation of the church. If your family and friends won’t help what that tell you? Something wrong! Like…… he’s not telling the truth! Karma!

      • Terrie

        Jason. A great way to convince people to believe you is to show facts, not just talk about them. Your opinion is NOT a fact but just your opinion. Show mw pictures. Show me proof. I challenage you!! Until you do, congrats to this man for not giving up and thanks to the woman helping him!

  • Pat

    And the appointment problem at the VA is still going on and on and on. Why can’t they get it together over there. My husband can’t get an appointment with cardiology or podiatry. It’s a problem for them. It’s frustrating for us. Give me a break. When is this going to get any better.

  • Lina

    What about his VA benefits? If he is a 100% disable vet (Per his car tags) he gets a check every month. So, I would have to agree with Jason. There was no investigation done on this story or the story was not presented correctly! He should have money somewhere.

    • jason

      Agree, and he get a check and have a place to stay. But as always the good people who pay taxes and work everyday and when they have a struggle period never get help. People who learn to get over on the system always win. Think about this, they’re investigating the VA right what a good way to shine the light on my so called situation. I can capitalize on this get all this attention and a hand out. People tried to help him offer services he declined because he didn’t want to live on rules. But yet we as a system fail again by giving in to lazy folks who prey on the weak.

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