A Mecklenburg County man said he was not prepared for what he saw the day he approached a neighbor’s home.
Chris Thomas called it a sad story that he just cannot get out of his head.
In October, Thomas stumbled upon a Vietnam veteran who was living in squalor when he went to feed the veteran’s dogs that he initially encountered roaming the streets.
Thomas said a worker at a nearby convenience store told him the dogs belonged to the veteran, who was thought to have been sick and in the hospital.
Later that day, when Thomas and his wife showed up to feed the veteran’s dogs, he said he found the man lying in his own waste, unable to move from his sofa.
“He was emaciated. He told me that he hadn’t eaten in at least two weeks. I kept calling social services and going up there, but nobody would return my calls. So, the only way I knew to get it out was social media,” Thomas said.
Thomas told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers that the highly-decorated veteran was living in a home with no phone, no television and, he believes, very limited contact with the outside world.
He said the man’s home was littered with dog feces and trash.
After calling the Mecklenburg County Social Services Department, Thomas said the veteran was eventually taken to the hospital, then a nursing/rehab home.
Not long after that, he said he was blown away to learn the veteran was released from the nursing home, first to a motel and then back to his house. Thomas said a taxi cab spotted out in the man’s yard first caught his attention.
Then, he was outraged when he spotted the veteran parked in his wheelchair on the front porch.
“He was sitting in his wheel chair, soaked in urine. That day it was starting to snow. I went into his house and it was 47 degrees inside,” said Thomas. “The cab driver was there helping him. He was cleaning everything that he could out of the house at the front door, so he could get inside.”
Once again, he took to social media and the veteran’s story was shared more than 1,000 times. He also said calls poured into the Mecklenburg County Social Services department.
The Problem Solvers reached out to that agency and a supervisor said privacy guidelines prohibited her from talking about specific cases. She said, in general, when they get emergency welfare calls, they investigate, conduct an assessment and determine what, if any services they can provide.
They also consider if a person actually wants help from their agency.
“I want to see him taken care of, like he is supposed to be. Since he took care of us. He did three tours in Vietnam. I just want to see the people take care of him and do what they’re supposed to do,” Thomas said.
For him, it’s emotional.
Now Thomas, who lives a few miles away, can hardly keep his mind off of what this veteran is going through. He swings by nearly every day to check on the man, who he said mostly sits alone in his home with the lights out, surrounded by his dogs.
The Problem Solvers reached out to the Virginia Department of Veterans.
Commissioner John Newby said that they are aware that the Mecklenburg County Social Services is in contact with the veteran. Newby said that Mecklenburg Social Services is the lead agency on this matter.
“My staff have given Mecklenburg connections to federal U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs resources, to the extent the citizen is eligible. Mecklenburg Social Services has been dealing with him for a while. Not saying this is the case here, but as with most social services cases, a citizen can only be helped if he/she accepts it,” said Newby.
To his knowledge, Thomas said Mecklenburg Social Services has provided the veteran a space heater and has delivered some meals to the home.
Due to confidentiality, workers there and at the VA could not confirm those details or elaborate on what they may be doing to help the ailing veteran.
Thomas said he reached out to some veterans advocacy groups and they expressed an interest in helping to clean up the man’s home.
CBS 6 News has also received inquiries from viewers wishing to help. Thomas said he planned to see this matter through and hopes the veteran can be removed from the home until the property can be properly cleaned and made habitable again.
“Social Services say the nurses don’t even want to go in because it’s too nasty. So, how do they think it’s OK for an elderly man to go in there, especially with open sores on him?” Thomas questioned.