Homeless family tries to put life back together

October 17, 2008 3:30:29 PM PDT
A south suburban family is struggling to put its life back together after a fire destroyed their home and the van that was their only way to get around. Until the United Way of Will County intervened Friday afternoon, a homeless family of thirteen was literally wandering from place to place in the southern suburbs.

Melvin Coleman and his wife Rochelle Perrian stood outside a Joliet motel Friday morning wondering how they got this far and where they would spend the next few nights.

"I've just been praying to God, wondering what's going to happen the next day. It's just been hard," said Perrian.

There are thirteen people, including children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, ranging in age from three to 62, who have moved at least a half dozen times since September 27.

That's when a fire burned the house they rented over thirty miles away in south suburban Markham destroying the van and everything the family owned. Coleman believes it was arson committed by someone he knows in the neighborhood.

"He threatened my wife that morning about a lawn mower that was missing. If he wasn't compensated, that he would retaliate," said Coleman.

Having run out of money many days ago and after spending four nights broke in a homeless shelter, a Joliet church paid for three rooms the last three nights in the Holiday Inn express in Joliet. Other Will Countians who heard of the family's plight in a local newspaper have brought over used clothing.

"We put together the clothes and headed here right away," said Dan Burke, Joliet resident.

"This just really hit becaus it was 13 people and they've lost everything and winter's coming and its hard," said Delores Burke, Joliet resident.

The family includes several mentally challenged members. That fact has complicated the search for a new home. The United Way of Will County stepped in Friday afternoon to ensure temporary housing and necessary counseling to get the family resettled.

The Will County United Way's president Mark Hennessey says he acted within hours after reading of the family's plight in the Daily Herald newspaper. Henessey said that if the United Way had been contacted just after the fire much of the hardship the family has experienced could have been avoided.


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