Disabled veteran Mike Johnson, right, with wife Vickie and Love thy Neighbor Chaplain John Naves. Naves and others in the community, including veterans’ groups are helping the Johnsons get on their feet.
Two weeks ago the Progress published a story about disabled veteran Mike Johnson and his wife Vickie, a homeless couple struggling with serious health issues – and the community has responded with a generous outpouring of support.
The Johnsons lost their home and belongings after Mike was sent to the hospital for nine weeks with pneumonia. He is also on a waiting list for a heart transplant and has diabetes.
Mike receives about $900 a month from disability. Vickie also has health issues but is not on disability.
The Progress was initially approached by John Naves, chaplain of the charity Love they Neighbor. He was desperately trying to find temporary housing until they could secure a permanent home for the couple.
Since the article was published, the Progress has received numerous calls from readers who wanted to help - and an anonymous donor has provided a place for the Johnsons to stay through March for free - the couple just has to cover the light bill. They are not currently staying in the house because of Mike’s latest health crisis, but hopes are high they will be there soon.
“We moved them out of the hotel Monday and put them in a home for a few months.” Naves said in an email. “Also, please continue to keep Mike and Vickie in your prayers, they definitely need it.”
Naves went on to report that Mike, who has been in ICU in a hospital in Rome the last few weeks, is recovering and will soon be transferred for rehabilitation.
“They took about 32 pounds of fluid off him,” Naves said. “A week ago Friday they talked to Vickie about hospice care, but we refused to believe it. That next morning he started to improve and respond. His kidneys are working, they have cut the vent back and his vital signs are great. He is a fighter along with Vickie.
“She has to stay at the hospital because she makes the decisions. She has been through this before and makes sure he is getting the best care. She has not been back to Jasper since New Year’s Eve but we moved his stuff [to the new house].”
Local veterans groups are also responding vigorously to help the couple. Wayne Poore of the N. Ga. Marine Corps League Detachment 1280 spoke to us about their efforts.
“Back in August at the Methodist church the couple was introduced to Bob Reitz, the American Legion service officer, who put them up in a room for two nights,” said Poore. “He gave the couple his card and told them to call if they needed more help, but never heard back.”
The Johnsons apparently got some assistance from a few other charities in town after speaking with Reitz and eventually found their way to Living Word Church and the Love thy Neighbor program. Now that the Marine Corps League is aware of the situation and confirmed Johnson’s status as a veteran (he served as a Marine from 1975-1979) they will offer whatever assistance they can.
“We saw the story a few weeks ago and it kind of surprised us because this is what we do, we help veterans, and we didn’t know it was happening,” Poore said. “Now that we confirmed he is a veteran with his DD214 papers we want the community to know that we are going to try to get him help when he gets out of the hospital.”
Poore said Johnson isn’t signed up through the Department of Veterans Affairs and is missing out on assistance.
“We’re going to help him get put into the VA system,” Poore said. “We’re going to do whatever we can along with Living Word Church and Love they Neighbor.”
You can make a donation to help the Johnsons at Regions Bank under the account named the “Michael H. Johnson Fund.”
You can also make a donation on the Love they Neighbor website at www.lovethyneighborjasper.com. Visit the Love thy Neighbor Facebook page LTNJasper for more information. Chaplain John Naves can be reached at 404-216-2023.