A new life for homeless veteran found sleeping behind family’s old home

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indianapolis veteran is looking forward to a life away from homelessness and the streets.

63-year-old Lewis Morris is a former Marine who grew up on the east side of Indianapolis. Now, a team of volunteers are working to build him a new life in a very familiar place.

“You can’t sleep here,” Lewis recalled business owners and police officers telling him. “You can’t sleep there. You got to move on.”

Lewis Morris, then homeless, did move on to a house near 23rd and Arsenal, but the former Marine would find no peace there.

“They told me people had been complaining about me sleeping on the porch, so they said for me not to sleep on the porch,” Lewis remembers.

So Lewis moved behind the house.

“I took a bed out of there and set it up,” Lewis said. “I covered it with plastic when I wasn’t here.”

But that wasn’t enough to keep Lewis off the radar. Tony Roberts went to check on him for the city.

“I did a property look up,” said Tony. “Morris was the last name of the first person who had the home. And it all started clicking with me.”

Lewis was sleeping in the backyard of the home he once lived in.

“Tony woke me up that morning, coming around there,” remembered Lewis. “‘Lewis,’ he called me by name. He said, ‘Lewis. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to help you.’”

Roberts worked quickly. He came to an agreement with the city to buy the house without paying the fees and taxes that had piled up in the years the house had been abandoned. Then, Roberts pulled together a team dedicated to getting Lewis back in his family’s home.

“When the volunteers came that first Saturday morning, it brought me to tears,” said Lewis.

Veterans from Eli Lilly’s Veteran Leadership Network, Heffner Plumbing and other local services with connections to the military pitched in. Valspar offered to provide enough paint for the entire house.

Together, the volunteers have demoed almost everything.

“He wasn’t wanting a handout,” said Roberts. “He was just wanting a helping hand.”

Lewis worked alongside them that first day and plans to continue every day until the key is in his hand.

Right now, they’re waiting on funding to get the materials needed to renovate the home. Most of the labor will be free. A GoFundMe account has raised $6,020 of the $38,000 they need.

“It’s worth the wait,” says Lewis. “That’s one thing I do have, is patience.”

If you would like to help Lewis get his home and life back, you can donate to the GoFundMe by clicking here.