A World War II veteran who survived the lashing of Hurricane Irma as it tore through Florida last year was confronted with another struggle this month, facing eviction for not fixing the storm damage to his home — but the local community stepped up to help.
Lucien E. Lebrun, known as Chet, was recently served an eviction notice from his retirement community in Winter Haven, Fla. after the 96-year-old failed to make repairs to his mobile home, his friend Karen Bingham told Fox News on Tuesday.
“He’s very upset that he’s being treated this way,” Bingham said. “He thought there was no way they would evict him because the government would step in.”
Lebrun’s mobile home was severely damaged by Irma’s fierce winds, which lifted parts of the aluminum off the side of the structure and the roof, allowing water to get inside the home’s walls.
“When he opens the front door every morning, it’s wet,” Bingham told Fox News. “The floor is already rotting and soft.”
The 96-year-old, who is on a fixed income, applied for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of repairs, but Bingham, who has power of attorney for Lebrun, said his initial request was denied and they have yet to hear about an appeal.
“I would just like to do this for him, just have him happy and live in peace without being harassed.”
His troubles got worse last week when he received an eviction notice from the Cypress Shores retirement community, saying Lebrun had to be out by Feb. 23 after not making repairs to his home.
“When they sent me that notice, ‘You got seven days to fix it,’ imagine fixing all that, seven days, I can’t even stand up,” Lebrun told FOX35.
Bingham said the management company of the community told her since Lebrun owned his mobile home, he was the one solely responsible for the repairs.
“They never said ‘Hey what can we do to help, maybe we can have someone on the maintenance crew help out,'” she said.
In an interview with The Ledger newspaper, Lebrun said he’s lived in the community since the late 1970s, and had been in his current mobile home for five years, along with his cat named Kitty.
Lebrun told the paper he served with the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945 during World War II.
“I spent three years in the jungle, fighting,” Lebrun said. “I never complain, but there’s not much I can do about it.”
The retirement community, which is listed online as a place where “residents enjoy the best of both worlds – the privacy and quiet that you find in a single-family home plus the commitment to service found in a professionally managed community,” did not respond to a phone call Tuesday by Fox News.
Bingham told Fox News the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Florida Department of Health are in favor of Lebrun entering an assisted-living facility, but Lebrun said he’s managed to live fine on his own and “takes pride in his independence.”
Since his troubles started, Bingham has set up a GoFundMe account to help Lebrun pay for repairs. The account had received more than $14,000 as of Wednesday. And two local businessmen stepped in Tuesday offering to purchase him a new mobile home in a nearby retirement community.
“They contacted me this morning and said that the two of them would like to purchase him a new mobile home in the Hamptons here in Auburndale,” Bingham told FOX35.
The goal now is to get Chet into a new home by the end of the week, according to Bingham, who said things are “moving along.”
She also told Fox News she’s been in contact with a representative from Sen. Marco Rubio’s office to examine Lebrun’s FEMA application.
Bingham also hopes she can use proceeds from the GoFundMe account to help Chet pay for his lot rent going forward, and replace his damaged furnishings for his new home.
“I would just like to do this for him, just have him happy and live in peace without being harassed,” she said.