Homeless Vietnam veterans bounce back thanks to web donations

October 9, 2017 - 2 min read

Out on the street

Vietnam veterans Gary and Clifford Koekoek had always done everything together. But living out of their car, homeless, at age 84? That was one place they never thought they’d be.

From homeowner to homeless

At 84, the Koekoek twins saw their lives change drastically. Their beautiful, Fair Oaks, California-based home – which had been in their family since the 1980s – entered foreclosure. When they couldn’t catch up on payments, the bank seized the property, leaving the veterans homeless.

Here was the problem, though: It wasn’t just that the Koekoeks didn’t have the funds to pay their mortgage. They’d taken out the loan only a few years prior to fix a failing roof – and they knew the payments they’d need to make.

But those payments they thought they could manage? They increased over time, getting higher and higher until they were no longer affordable.

Many people took put loans knowing there would be higher payments down the road. They just expected to be able to sell their homes before that happened, or they got caught in the Great Recession and their incomes did not keep up.

And, just like that, the Koekoek twins were out on the streets, living in their car at age 84. Sometimes, the twins said, they even had to forgo food.

At one point, Clifford even told his local Fox station “I’d rather go back to the war and get shot at, than this crap.” Gary called their situation “hell.”

Stories to tell

The two men are no strangers to struggle, though. They lived in Europe during the German occupation in World War II. They immigrated to America. They fought in the Vietnam War and survived countless bombings and attacks.

And like those other adventures, their living situation became yet another story to tell. When word of the Koekoek twins’ homelessness spread across the web, a GoFundMe campaign went up in their honor. Nearly 3,000 people donated upwards of $121,000 to the men – far surpassing the page’s goal of $25K.

Now, Gary and Clifford Koekoek area able to afford living arrangements in a local veteran’s housing unit.

And that “hell?” It’s finally over.

Aly J. Yale
Authored By: Aly J. Yale
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Aly J. Yale is a mortgage and real estate writer based in Houston who has contributed to Forbes and worked for organizations such as The Dallas Morning News, PBS, NBC, and Radio Disney.