“HUD Secretary Donovan forces 101 Year Old Detroit mother into homelessness, SHAME on you.”
by Ken Smith
HUD now says a 101-year-old Detroit woman it promised could move back into her foreclosed home four months ago can’t return to her home because the building’s unsanitary and unsafe.
101 Year Old Texana Hollis was evicted Sept. 12 and her belongings placed outside on the street after her 65-year-old son failed to pay property taxes linked to a reverse mortgage, The Detroit News reported Sunday. Two days later, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said she could return.
But today, HUD said it won’t let Texana Hollis move back into her house because of the condition. She had lived at this house for the last 60 years.
“Here I am, 100 years old, and don’t have a home,” Hollis said . “Oh Lord, please, somebody help me.”
Housing Department spokesman Brian Sullivan told The Detroit News that an inspection determined the house “was completely unsuitable for a person to live in.”
“We can’t allow someone to live in that (atmosphere) now that we are essentially the owners of the property,” Sullivan said. “The home isn’t safe; it’s not sanitary. It’s certainly not suitable for anyone to live in, especially not a 101-year-old mother.”
“We’re not giving up,” Sullivan said. “We’re talking with anybody and everybody about solutions to this situation, but the condition of the property is a challenge.”
After hearing about her friend’s eviction, Pollian Cheeks, 68, offered Hollis a room at her home within a mile of Hollis’ house.
Hollis, who once taught Cheeks in Sunday school at St. Philip’s Lutheran Church, agreed to the invitation and has been staying at Cheeks’ house in the meantime.
“Polly’s just as nice to me as anybody could be. She goes out of her way to help me,” Hollis said, holding back tears. “It’s just like living at home, but it’s not my home.”
Now, Shame again on you Shawn Donovan. Where is your compassion this winter? If you do this to a 100 year old mother, how can you sleep at night?
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight.
In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets.
In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship.
Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans.
Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees.
An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding.
Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs.
A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.