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New York veteran living in vehicle gets support from police officer's fundraising campaign

Local veteran gets a second chance
Posted at 8:21 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 13:32:19-04

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — On a hot Monday in North Tonawanda, New York, Doug and Lisa, who were parked at a Walmart said they saw something that made their blood boil.

“He got into his car, turned over the back seat, and just started hammering the dog—full fist, as strong as he could, at least five times,” Doug said.

For Doug, a dog lover, what he said he saw was too much to take. He tried to confront the driver, but after exchanging a few words, they drove off.

“I immediately called the police, and they showed up,” he said.

That’s where North Tonawanda Dog Control Officer Rick Salisbury comes in.

“When I arrived, I met Doug and Lisa and they advised me what they saw,” he said.

Salisbury went to take the report, and that’s really where this story begins.

“When I talked to Doug, I asked him his address. He mentioned his address was here. I said, ‘No Doug, I need to know where you live,’” Salisbury said.

“I said right here,” Doug said. “And I pointed to my truck. I said we live right here. We have been here four months now.”

Doug, a disabled veteran, and his wife Lisa, who is also disabled and deals with many health issues, live in the back of their 2007 Ford Explorer.

“We’ve been living in the parking lot for 4.5 months now because we have nowhere to go,” he said.

Doug and Lisa say with Social Security as their only income, money is scarce. With landlords trying to get top dollar for property right now, they say they were shoved out of the only apartment that they could afford.

After working with the VA for months trying to find something and having the VA supplement a hotel bill, in March, the money ran out, and Doug says they were forced on the road.

“We continued looking for a place which we do to this day on all the websites because we both are disabled and there are certain things we can and cannot do. We do need a two-bedroom because of both of our disabilities,” he said.

The pair said they haven’t had any luck, so they converted their car into their living space.

“I installed screens in both back windows just so when we sleep at night we have some relief,” he said.

“He served our country, people shouldn’t live like that,” said Salisbury.

Salisbury said he took it upon himself to start a Gofundme for Doug and Lisa, kicking it off with money out of his and his partner’s pocket, with enough money to pay for four nights in a motel.

“From that point forward, the heart just kicked in I guess,” Salisbury said.

Since then, people have been donating in droves to the Gofundme.

Doug said it’s been hard for him to ask for help.

“That’s just the kind of person I’ve always been,” he said. “If I can’t do it myself, I’m not going to ask anybody.”

But perfect strangers are giving Doug and Lisa a second chance, a clean shower, a favorite meal, a place to stay.

“It kind of restored my faith in humanity because we’ve had a rough bunch of years,” Lisa said. “It’s nice to know that there are nice people out there.”

The Gofundme account has raised close to $8,000 and keeps growing by the day.

“My goal is to get them 30 days in a motel,” Salisbury said.

This article was written by Hannah Buehler for WKBW.