Couple's story inspires outpouring of support

Posted February 21, 2012
Updated February 22, 2012

— A Raleigh couple opened their lives Monday, sharing their story of homelessness and struggle on WRAL News. In response, the community opened their hearts and wallets, triggering a tsunami of generosity that will help John and Lee Venable and others in similar situations.

Lee Venable's tears of desperation turned to cries of joy when a stranger paid for the couple to spend Monday night in a hotel – their first night in a real bed in weeks. A period of joblessness found the Venables sleeping in their car and washing up at a local grocery store.

The Women's Center of Wake County, which has been helping the couple, was flooded with calls Tuesday offering money, gift cards, even jobs.

"We let the public know, and now there's this outpouring of love that's being poured into what once was an empty cup," said the center's Regina Brooks. Co-worker Jean Williams added, "It's been a little bit overwhelming, but a good overwhelming."

John Venable, who has been out of work for a year recently found a manual labor job, and the couple is starting to re-build a sense of security. Triangle Family Services is helping them secure an apartment. 

"At this point, they're still reacting by gut," said Julie Sager, of Triangle Family Services. "Having that person to kind of normalize things for them really helps."

Keeping a head count on the homeless can be tricky. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tries to track the number of homeless veterans by counting how many people it serves. Donors respond to couple's plight Donors respond to couple's plight

Donors respond to couple's plight Donors respond to couple's plight

Groups who work with the issue estimate there are 2,000 homeless people on the streets in the Triangle on any given night. Those who are on the move and don’t ask for help can be some of the toughest homeless people to track down. The Venables were among those – finding “home” wherever they could.

Williams hopes their story results in more help for others in similar situations. "There are so many more Venables out there," she said.

Ways to help

Help the Women's Center of Wake County 

Triangle Family Services

Get involved with Raleigh Rescue Mission


This story is closed for comments.

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  • juchushu Feb 22, 2012

    If you're doing drugs, then chances are that eventually things are going to go downhill. I, myself, was feeling so sorry for this couple until I read further into everything and realized they have court dates, and drug problems on top of their financial situation. Shame on them.

  • muggs Feb 22, 2012

    These two are an example of why mandatory drug test should be a requirement in order to receive any aid from our social systems,so many willing to overlook the fact that drug use is rampid amoung those who are in the system and all financed by taxpayers who get up and go to work each day,if put on the ballot I am sure I would not be alone in my thinking.

  • storchheim Feb 22, 2012

    "You have to be WILLING to work though. Too many are not and would prefer to live off those governement programs and let taxpayers cuddle them their entire life." - ncouterbanks

    This recession would be a great time to revamp, restrict and rewrite existing welfare programs.

    Yes, I said now. Just as we we should have developed alternate energy technologies in the 70s when we were waiting in line for gas. We started, but then prices eased up and we got complacent.

    This recession and the forced changes in lifestyle are predicted to be of a long duration. We have to put lifetime limits on food stamps, Section 8, WIC, TANF, and Medicaid. These programs were never intended to support people entirely all their lives. The safety net has become a hammock.

  • muggs Feb 22, 2012

    It is people like this that are not only getting into our social systems but costing us more by their illegal drug use,spending money that ends up in drug dealers hands,the very drug dealer we are spending billions to combat against gaining entry into this country,are people so blind they fail to see the connection,these people don't want to be saved they want money for drugs and will go homeless to get those drugs,now that is the bare truth and many know it.

  • muggs Feb 22, 2012

    LARK13, Thanks for your investigative reporting,it cleared up the story as many had asked about,why this was not done prior to running it is beyond me,these two turned out to be not so special afterall I myself was feeling for them until the truth came out.

  • Uhavenoclu Feb 22, 2012

    That's just it,the only ones who get help are the ones who write to tv stations and get on the air.............You say there are 15,000-20-000 homeless people most sleeping in their cars?,
    Why don't people help them?
    If you see someone on a regular basis in their car at night go and help them get a room or something to eat.Don't just limit yourself to just one you never see,help the ones you see on a regular basis and i'm not talking about the scammers in the middle of the road with the vests on,they pay for the vests they pay for the permit,the pay for the booze,go behind the stores nearby and see,or follow them afterwards get into their fancy cars.
    Appearance is just an illusion if you only see a glimpse.

  • muggs Feb 22, 2012

    Sound as if they might be better off in re-hab than government housing.

  • joeydirtwood Feb 22, 2012

    I'm with you,thepeopleschamp
    I do feel for them but a life time of bad mistakes catchs up with us all at some point in time.They both can still make an effort to not be the people they were.Lord knows the number of times I learned from my own mistakes.Fire burns !

  • muggs Feb 22, 2012

    The out pouring of help and sympathetic gestures could have gone to ones more deserving had this story revealed the true nature of what brought these two to the point they have reached I'm sure the response would have been somewhat different,being unemployed is a far cry from being on drugs,someone got dooped on this story.

  • ceovsenik Feb 22, 2012

    It's always interesting, when something is the result of Republican greed, people say it's not political. But anything else, it's always "blame Obama." Just sayin.