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Family is biggest gift for formerly homeless couple

Posted December 24, 2013

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— For four months last year, John and Lee Venable slept in their SUV off and on, bathed in grocery store bathrooms and ate meals in parking lots.

"Those times was hard," John Venable said Tuesday.

"It was real life. It wasn't just something you watched on TV," Lee Venable added.

An outpouring of support after WRAL News profiled the Raleigh couple's plight led to Triangle Family Services and the Women's Center of Wake County putting a roof over their head.

Eighteen months later, the Venables still live in that apartment with their son, Valentino, and their rescue dog, Choo Choo. They said they often think of the support that came at their lowest point.

"I just think about, oh, thank you, Jesus. We still have a roof over our head," Lee Venable said.

They have replaced the broken down SUV with a 2006 Ford Fusion, but the road to self-sufficiency remains difficult.

Last month, John Venable lost his manual labor job. Unemployment benefits help pay the bills for now, and Lee Venable qualifies for disability because of her struggles with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and anxiety.

"I still cry. I get upset," she said, recalling the couple's homeless life.

A modest Christmas tree now sits in the corner of their home, with no presents underneath it. But John Venable said that's not important, as long as the family is together.

"This is the joyous season right here," he said, giving his wife a kiss. "This is my biggest gift right here. This is my biggest gift."

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