Several months ago Phoenix Police Officer Timaree Murphy met Mr. Houng Nguyen at his home in the area of South 47th Street and East Roeser in Phoenix. “T”, as she likes to be called, was at the home for a “check welfare” police radio call.
Houng, a Vietnamese immigrant who had spent several years as a prisoner of war in his mother country, had a story to tell. A story not so much about his imprisonment, but more about his migration to the United States and his love for this country. Officer Murphy listened, and in a very short while a special bound was formed between the officer and the 71 year old.
But there was a problem; the reason for the radio call was the conditions under which Mr. Nguyen was living. The City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services had responded to the home and determined the exterior and interior were unsafe. You see Houng was a hoarder, and not just your “everyday” hoarder. As unfortunate as it must have been to live as a prisoner, Houng believed early in his incarceration that every item, no matter how large or how small, how immediately relevant or irrelevant could be to the key to his survival. And Houng learned to keep everything. It became a disorder, this hoarding that followed him from the freedom of his release to his sanctuary on South 47th Street.
To say the task of bringing Houng’s home up to even a minimal living standard would be monumental would certainly be an understatement. Houng had no family but he did have Officer Murphy and, very soon after, Phoenix Police Officer Norma Jean Campbell. These officers could not stand by while Houng lost his home, especially after his constant praise of this country, his neighbors and the City of Phoenix. Officer Campbell contacted Ms. Leah Heathcoat of “Angels on Patrol” for assistance. Now, Houng’s situation was not one normally addressed by the community service based organization, but Angels on Patrol jumped right into the situation and an incredible community effort was born.
On October 26-27 around 30 volunteers from Phoenix Police, Angels on Patrol, Wells Fargo Bank, Phoenix Neighborhood services, Phoenix City Abatement and neighbors joined with Mr. Dale Cillian of “BioPro” to begin the monumental task of making Houng’s home livable.
Many business partners and city departments contributed this effort. Houng told me “It really warms my heart to see this, these people here to help me. I know this is why I came to the United States, the people”.
During the weekend effort nearly half the estimated 50 tons of debris was removed from the home. There is so much more to be done. Angels on Patrol is looking to schedule a second clean up in about two weeks to finish the job and anyone who would like to volunteer their time or offer support in the form of food, water or heavy equipment to the effort should contact Angels on Patrol at www.angelsonpatrol.com.
Oh Yeah, did I mention Houng’s “Zen” rock garden?! The photos speak wonders. There is much more to tell.