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Homeless veteran who lost everything in pandemic wins D.C. vaccine lottery prize

Jul 13, 2021, 2:04 pm

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"When I thought everything was going wrong, this really helped me out"

By Kate Northrop

An Air Force veteran who lost his job, home, and car to the pandemic was desperate for support when he arrived at a Washington D.C. homeless shelter, but things changed for the better when he won a prize in the D.C. vaccine lottery.

Everything was moving in the wrong direction for Sung-ha Jou, 44, right as the COVID-19 pandemic landed in the U.S. When all seemed lost, his luck suddenly changed when he won a prize in the D.C. vaccine lottery.

When Jou was a teenager, he emigrated from South Korea to California and became a U.S. citizen. He firmly believed in enlisting in the military, so he joined the Air Force and served the country in a career that lasted 15 dedicated years.

His military service brought him to the East Coast, where the veteran took up a job as a car mechanic at a dealership in Centreville, Virginia five years after he retired from the Air Force. When the coronavirus hit the country hard, however, business grinded to a near halt.

Jou was one of many Americans furloughed as a result of the pandemic. He knew he had to find other means of income to support himself, so he used the money he saved up from unemployment checks to jumpstart his own business as a mobile mechanic.

It was not cushy or stable by any means. His job driving around the state to make car repairs and perform oil changes was not enough to support rent expenses, so he put a bed in his van and moved in.

"It was ok. I managed for a while," Jou told The Washington Post. "Until the car broke down and I didn't have the money to fix it."

Not only that, but Jou had all his tools stolen when a thief broke into his van, rendering him unable to run his mobile mechanic business. Having already been struggling to make ends meet in the first place, his food stamps expired, and he couldn't afford to buy groceries and water.

"It was really, really tough," he recalled. "That's when I really became aware of some of my mental issues, the PTSD issues that I had either ignored or was too proud to admit to ... I spent a lot of time in my car by myself."

Just a month ago, Jou's van was repossessed, so he had little choice but to sleep on the street. A few days later on a very hot day, he was found passed out outside. An ambulance took him to a hospital, where he related his luckless story to a woman at the front desk. She pooled money with her friends to buy him an Uber to a homeless shelter in D.C.

"When I first got to the shelter, I was very dejected, and I was feeling very hopeless," he related. "Everything I had is gone, and I just had no idea how to get back on my own two feet again."

The homeless veteran had heard about the COVID-19 vaccine when he was still living in his van, but he had decided that it was too risky to get one since there was no one to take care of him if he had a negative reaction to it.

He changed his mind almost right away when he arrived at the shelter and saw that he would be living in a room full of other homeless men, just as vulnerable to the coronavirus as he was.

"I immediately said, 'I need a vaccine now. I'm with a group of at least 100 people," he said to himself.

That same day, he got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Unbeknownst to him, Jou was eligible to be entered in a D.C. vaccine lottery since he received his first dose at that particular vaccination site, the RISE Demonstration Center. Just last week, the city awarded various prizes, including one car, two $10,000 grocery gift cards, and eight Metro passes good for one year to those who had received their doses at three qualified sites.

"I had no idea," Jou said. "They said, 'Would you like to be entered into this free prize raffle?' I said, 'Sure, why not? I'd take anything free right now.' I didn't even remember it. When they called me, initially I thought it was some sort of scam."

This week, Jou was surprised to learn that he had won a pass for a year of free rides on the D.C. Metro system, allowing him to easily travel to medical appointments, receive Veterans Affairs assistance, and more. Not only that, but he said it will help him get back on his feet while he looks for employment and housing.

"How did they know I needed this?" he remarked.

Before, he would have to trod on foot for incredibly long distances in the muggy summer heat. No longer will going from place to place be an arduous task now that he can ride Metro trains and buses for free.

"This is literally God-sent," he said. "I'm so grateful for this. It's just out of nowhere. When I thought everything was going wrong, this really helped me out."

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10 comments. Last comment 16 days ago by wander73.
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rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
100
Texas
United States
Member #55887
October 23, 2007
11517 Posts
Offline

What a great story. I really hope he gets back on his feet soon.

CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

    Avatar
    united states
    United States
    Member #212945
    January 21, 2021
    40 Posts
    Offline

    Heart warming story !  May his good luck continue !

      Avatar
      Gallatin Tennesee
      United States
      Member #194096
      November 29, 2018
      48 Posts
      Online

      The fact that the nurses at the hospital did not hesitate to help this poor man out when he needed it the most, does not surprise me. Some of the finest human beings on earth are in our hospitals every day wearing a nurses uniform. This story demonstrates 2 versions of our great country,  from the cowardly evil of the person who broke into his van and took his tools, to the angelic kindness of the hospital staff. Thanks Kate, my favorite story of the year, so far.

        wander73's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

        United States
        Member #153767
        March 24, 2014
        5157 Posts
        Offline

        What a joke!!!

         

        So sick of hearing about the plandemic. 

         

        the news ,  and more news.   I guess people will never wake up.

        Anyone can beat my price,  no one can beat my value.

        I don't sell the steak,  I sell the sizzle!

        I set the market value on items

          wander73's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

          United States
          Member #153767
          March 24, 2014
          5157 Posts
          Offline

          this whole thing sounds like a cult and the govt and everyone associated with them are using the propaganda route.  I know most will disagree with me,  but it's sad that people are getting brainwashed over this crap and agenda.

          Anyone can beat my price,  no one can beat my value.

          I don't sell the steak,  I sell the sizzle!

          I set the market value on items

            Avatar

            United States
            Member #183938
            August 21, 2017
            2686 Posts
            Offline

             more to the story? I'm glad the guy won and it helps. How many of us would lose everything tomorrow and end up at a shelter? My bro or sis, I even have cousins that would let me pitch a tent  in the back yard that would take me in for a while, if I needed a loan my family would help. I'm always cenacle cynical. Either way Congratz on the win

            Don't ever fall in love with a number it will always break ur heart!

              Avatar
              DMV
              United States
              Member #183844
              August 18, 2017
              298 Posts
              Offline

              What a joke!!!

               

              So sick of hearing about the plandemic. 

               

              the news ,  and more news.   I guess people will never wake up.

              What exactly are we suppose to be waking up from sweetie?

                wander73's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

                United States
                Member #153767
                March 24, 2014
                5157 Posts
                Offline

                What exactly are we suppose to be waking up from sweetie?

                its all propaganda.   Everything is in our faces.  Look around,  not hard to do.

                Anyone can beat my price,  no one can beat my value.

                I don't sell the steak,  I sell the sizzle!

                I set the market value on items

                  Avatar
                  New York
                  United States
                  Member #103596
                  January 4, 2011
                  7132 Posts
                  Offline

                  So many levels to this story. My primary takeaway is that the federal government's treatment of our veterans is horrendous. This individual- similar to so many- had few, if any, avenues to get needed assistance; meanwhile billions of dollars are currently being expended housing, feeding, educating, transporting, giving handouts of cash to, etc. those crossing our southern border illegally. Once it all fell apart, the razor edge existence of his mental health came to the fore- hopefully, this is the focus of his treatment and path to recovery and restoration. I'm also struck that the inflection point was the breakdown of his van- he's a mechanic! Also, van gets repossessed- how the hell did they find him?

                    wander73's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

                    United States
                    Member #153767
                    March 24, 2014
                    5157 Posts
                    Offline

                    So many levels to this story. My primary takeaway is that the federal government's treatment of our veterans is horrendous. This individual- similar to so many- had few, if any, avenues to get needed assistance; meanwhile billions of dollars are currently being expended housing, feeding, educating, transporting, giving handouts of cash to, etc. those crossing our southern border illegally. Once it all fell apart, the razor edge existence of his mental health came to the fore- hopefully, this is the focus of his treatment and path to recovery and restoration. I'm also struck that the inflection point was the breakdown of his van- he's a mechanic! Also, van gets repossessed- how the hell did they find him?

                    People need to stop trusting puppets ,  that's what they are.  they're obeying the masters . about this person I'm not sure I think people are being taken advantage of that's what the problem is

                    Anyone can beat my price,  no one can beat my value.

                    I don't sell the steak,  I sell the sizzle!

                    I set the market value on items