South Carolina

Neighbors step up for SC veteran evicted while in hospital after people swipe his stuff

Screengrab from Kevin Riera's Facebook

A purple heart. His cats. A plush recliner.

The belongings of a veteran in South Carolina recovering from a heart attack at a hospital were strewn about a parking lot after he was evicted by the apartment complex, according to news reports.

When trash pickers started “ransacking” the former Marine’s belongings, his neighbor Kevin Riera in Myrtle Beach took notice.

Riera posted the man’s plight on Facebook on Wednesday, garnering the attention of local veterans organizations, law enforcement and community members who quickly rallied to protect what remained, media outlets report. Some reportedly stayed overnight.

He also set up a GoFundMe page for the veteran — identified only as Tom on social media and in news reports — that raised more than $6,000 in just under 48 hours. Riera deactivated the fundraiser after they exceeded the initial goal “by about 1,200 percent,” he said on Facebook.

“His cats are being cared for by a neighbor who has his own cats and some of Tom’s most precious belongings have been collected and stored,” according to the GoFundMe page. “His entire life remains outside still having been rained on once already, being picked apart by trash pickers, right now as he is recovering in the hospital.”

WPDE reported finding a notice of eviction from Canterbury Apartments in the Horry County Public Index.

Sterling Management Ltd. Inc., the property manager for Canterbury Apartments, said in a statement they “did everything according to the law,” the media outlet reported.

“Sterling Management made numerous accommodations in response to the tenant’s circumstances, including reaching out to the local Myrtle Beach Veterans’ Center for assistance,” the company said in a statement reported by WPDE. “While the outcome was unfortunate and there has been a negative response and negative light placed on the matter from outside sources, Sterling Management handled the matter properly and professionally and with as much courtesy as the circumstances would allow.”

Christopher Trinemeyer of Operation Veteran Reintegration, who is reportedly helping Tom, said he was about four months behind on rent, the media outlet reported.

Tom was released from the hospital Wednesday and taken to a homeless shelter, WBTW reported.

Veterans Outreach Program Specialist Chris Aranda said VA members did not find him at the shelter when they arrived but rather walking on another street, according to the media outlet.

Aranda said Tom was put up in a hotel overnight until volunteers could help him load the rest of his things on Thursday, WBTW reported. He is now reportedly on his way to New York to be with family and friends.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.