“There were people who helped us along the way. We knew there had to be some agency out there. You never give up hope.”
Paul Thormann, 66, a Marine who served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Purple Heart, and worked for decades as a furniture mover. He and Julie Heuer, 60, have been together for nearly 29 years. They became homeless in 2010 after Thormann lost his employment and no longer could cover rent at their apartment of 18 years. Thormann, who suffers from PTSD, couldn’t get another job and Heuer works part time. They lived from an old Dodge Aerostar van for four years before it was hit and totaled by another vehicle. Then they lived outside, sometimes staying under a bridge on the South Side. Fervent Green Bay Packers fans, they watched games at a laundromat on Fish Hatchery Road.
The return to housing and stability came slowly. Madison Parks Division ranger Ben Jackson helped and also contacted Will Brewer, a street outreach worker for Porchlight Inc.
The couple filled out an application for the community’s prioritized list for housing, and Brewer contacted nonprofit Housing Initiatives, which provides housing to the homeless with mental illness. In November 2015, Housing Initiatives got them into an apartment. They pay 30 percent of their income for rent, with the rest covered by a federal grant, and they get continuing case management.
Their two-bedroom unit is decorated with Packers and Badgers memorabilia bought at thrift stores.
-- Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson