A Korean War veteran living in unspeakable conditions? Not in this community

April 15, 2019

The community of Burrillville, Rhode Island is rallying to support an 83-year old Korean War veteran whose home is literally falling down around him.

There's no running water in Paul Teller's house, portions of the roof are missing, central heat is nonexistent and an outhouse serves as his bathroom. Teller lives in a 10 x 15-foot room and uses a chair as a bed.

"There's no way a Korean War veteran should be living like this," Jim Collins, president of New Englanders Helping Our Veterans said. "It looks like a bomb dropped in there."

"There's no first floor left. The garage collapsed on top of a 1946 Dodge. It's been years and years that the gentleman has been living in it."

As soon as the Collins' heard Teller's story, they knew their organization had to get involved.

"There's no way we're going to let this continue," Collins said.

Teller interior
New Englanders Helping Our Veterans

Through social media posts, local news stories and word of mouth, the story of Teller's need for a new home spread. And a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of building a three-room home on the property is underway.

Collins said Teller had tears in his eyes when he found out what the plans were.

Teller interior
New Englanders Helping Our Veterans

"I feel like an 83-year old gentleman at Christmas," Teller reportedly said. "I never believed in angels before."

A trailer is being set up on the property for Teller to live in while the construction project is underway. When Teller passes on, it will become available for another veteran to live in.

Teller was born and raised on the property, has no family and really doesn't want to leave, Collins said.

"He was never married," he said. "He's got no family to step up at all."

Collins said demolishing the home to make way for a new structure is going to be challenging. It has tested positive for lead and a hazmat team will have to be brought in to take it down.

Collins and his wife Belinda began NEHOV in 2016. The veterans the organization assists aren't required to be homeless, injured, disabled or suffer Post Traumatic Stress. All a veteran in need has to do is provide proof of their service to the nonprofit, via email or letter. If you know a veteran in need, you can also make a request on their behalf to NEHOV.

Teller interior
New Englanders Helping Our Veterans

For those in the Burrillville, RI area who want to learn more about the project or how they can help, there will be a community meeting April 25 at 7 p.m. at Burrillville High School. To make a donation to the effort, mail a check to NEHOV, 1515 Douglas Pike Burrillville, RI 02830. Be sure to note Teller in the memo line.

"I don't leave anybody behind," Collins said. "Right now, I'm like a beggar on the street for this project."

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