In 2019, a pair of best friends noticed an elderly woman who appeared to be living in her car in a store parking lot with her two dogs. The friends, Jennifer Husband-Elsier and Melissa Akacha, posted about the other woman on the Nextdoor app in April that year, asking if anyone in their area knew who she was and what her current situation was like.
The elderly woman was discovered to be 70-year-old Lynn Schutzman, a former pharmacist who was battling multiple health issues and living in her small SUV in various parking lots across the suburban area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, specifically near King of Prussia.
The two friends also spoke with the elderly woman to find out more about her story and learned that she had been suffering from numerous illnesses following the death of her husband. Schutzman struggled to keep up with all of the medical bills and found herself unable to pay for her home. She had nowhere else to go and could never seem to get the help she desperately needed, resulting in her and her two dogs permanently living in her cramped vehicle.
After finding out more about Schutzman, Husband-Elsier and Akacha wanted to do something to help her out and give her a better living situation. Some neighbors began bringing food and supplies to Schutzman in her car, but the best friends wanted to do more. After starting a GoFundMe, they raised enough money to pay for the woman to move into a studio apartment, instantly changing her life for the better.
Back in April 2019, Husband-Elsier and Akacha started a GoFundMe to help raise money to pay for an apartment for Schutzman. The 70-year-old woman had been struggling with her health and finances and was living in her car in a Target parking lot, according to ABC News.
Schutzman had nowhere to go as she didn’t qualify for affordable housing, homeless shelters wouldn’t take in her dogs and she didn’t have any family to turn to. “Everybody knew that Lynn was a really wonderful, sweet, loving, giving person who really fell on hard times,” Husband-Elsier said. She and Akacha raised enough money to get a studio apartment for the elderly woman, with many neighbors coming by to paint and furnish the place in May 2019.
Now, Schutzman once again has a real place to call home and lives in a studio apartment with her dogs where she receives food deliveries. Her neighbors still help her out and even stop by to walk her dogs for her, as per ABC News.
A video from WBUR captured the heartwarming moment Schutzman walked into her new home, showing just how grateful and emotional she was. Building a true friendship with the women who helped her get back on her feet, Schutzman made plans for Thanksgiving in 2019 with Husband-Elsier’s family.
According to ABC News, the rent for the apartment was paid off for the next two years, with the crowdfunding page raising more than $30,000. “It wouldn’t have happened without these angels,” Schutzman said. “…Sometimes, you know, just the kindness of strangers just makes all the difference in someone’s life.”
Schutzman’s story also speaks to the extreme burden of costly medical bills in the U.S. According to data compiled by Debt.com, 50% of Americans carry medical debt, and more than half owe at least $1,000 due to the high cost of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and diagnostic testing.
“The system is rigged against them, for real,” said the executive director of the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt Allison Sesso in an interview with Forbes. “Medical debt is uniquely American and it’s a by-product of the broken financing of our healthcare system.”
Many apost.com readers made similar points in response to Schutzman’s story.
“It is deplorable that this woman, a pharmacist who spent her working life helping people, is reduced to living in her SUV because medical bills left her destitute. Healthcare reform is desperately needed,” Karen Wilson commented on Facebook.
“Glad to see this story. Perhaps it will help to dispel the myth that homeless people are all addicts or drunks, which is NOT the case,” Sherry Mitchell added. “This lady was only one of COUNTLESS people in the same situation, but she, unlike many others, at least had a vehicle to shelter in?. This country is broken .. this should not happen to any human being, even if they do suffer with addiction!”
Although the system might be unjust, members of Schutzman’s community were able to work together to give her a place she could call home. And for that reason, we can be hopeful and grateful.
As one reader wrote, “There are still beautiful, loving people.”