For two years, this homeless woman had been living in her SUV together with her two dogs – until kind strangers stepped in to change her situation.
It all began when best friends Jennifer Husband-Elsier and Melissa Akacha approached 70-year-old Lynn Schutzman’s car in a Target parking lot in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
“Our first question to her was just, ‘Are you OK?'” Jennifer said.
That’s when they learned about the homeless woman’s heartbreaking story. Lynn told the women that since her husband’s sudden death, she became riddled with numerous illnesses. The medical bills continuously piled up until it left her with no money to pay for her home.
The former pharmacist was forced to move all of her belongings and her two dogs into her SUV. Affordable housing wasn’t an option for her, as homeless shelters would not allow her pets.
The two women took to posting about Lynn in Nextdoor, a neighborhood social media site, to gather more information about Lynn and the people who might know her.
“Does anyone know anything about the elderly woman with 2 dogs that has recently been living in her car under the covered part of the Target parking lot?” Jennifer asked on the app in April. “I spoke to the police and they said she’s been living like this for over 2 years in different areas of [King of Prussia]. … It’s an awful scenario. Really, really upsetting.”
Melissa, a pharmacist, asked people in the field whether they knew anything about Lynn. She learned that the homeless woman was actually a respected mentor in the pharmacy field.
“Everybody knew that Lynn was a really wonderful, sweet, loving, giving person who really fell on hard times,” Jennifer told ABC News. “That made us confident in our journey to start helping her.”
The two women paid for Lynn to stay in a hotel, and after they posted about her on Nextdoor to make the neighbors aware, some people went to her parked vehicle in Target to bring her meals, blankets, and even food for her pets.
As much as this gesture was appreciated, Jennifer and Melissa knew that there is more that needs to be done. So, they created a crowdfunding page for her.
“This woman has gone completely unnoticed…by absolutely everyone in our town for over two years! Up until today, she never wanted to admit to anyone, including her physicians, that she is homeless. She puts on a front to most people who know her because she is embarrassed [as you can imagine] of what has happened to her. … She is one of ‘King of Prussia’s homeless,'” they wrote. “We need to help this woman. NO ONE should ever have to live the way she is living.”
Incredibly, just after ten days, they had raised enough money to get Lynn her own studio apartment. About a dozen people also came to King of Prussia in May to help paint Lynn’s new home and furnish it with some donated items before she moves in. According to Jennifer and Melissa, there were specific committees assigned to fix Lynn’s car, care for her dogs, and even get her doctors. It was truly a community effort.
“I know that Lynn needed us. She needed friendship and love and people who care. … We learned that we needed Lynn, too. This opportunity has also given us love and friendship and restored our faith in humanity,” Jennifer wrote in a post on NextDoor.
Lynn was able to move into her studio apartment in May, and in a video captured of the moment she first stepped foot into her home, there was an outpouring of tears as she became emotional with gratitude.
“It was unbelievable the way our community came together,” Jennifer said. “We just asked [Schutzman] if she was OK. Really, it’s the community who made the big impact.”
This incredible community did more than just chip in to get her an apartment. Through their donations, her rent had been paid off for the next two years!
Lynn is overwhelmed with all that has happened, and she is extremely thankful to everyone who helped her get out of homelessness.
“It wouldn’t have happened without these angels,” Lynn told ABC News. “I just want people to realize that this can happen to anybody. … I had a good job. I had good retirement but I got sick and health insurance only covers so much. … I have no children. I have no family. .. I had nowhere to turn. Sometimes, you know, just the kindness of strangers just makes all the difference in someone’s life.”
Watch the video below to see Lynn’s emotional reaction upon moving into her new home.