DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - When Teri Ahmann found Gerald Leo Smith living in the bushes in Daytona Beach as Hurricane Irma loomed, she saw a bit of herself in him, having been homeless herself three decades ago.
She decided to reach out to the Navy veteran and offered to buy him a drink.
“For whatever reason, he just looked sad to me, so I walked up and I say, ‘Can I get you a beer?’” Ahmann said.
She then asked Smith where he was planning to shelter during the hurricane.
“He said he didn’t know,” Ahmann said. “He was going to go where God told him to go.”
Ahmann decided to take Smith in and soon learned that he served in the Navy during the Korean War and had been walking the streets for more than three decades.
She helped Smith clean up, bought him new clothes and even tried to open a bank account in his name.
That’s where they realized they had a problem.
“As they asked for a Social Security number, they said he came back as deceased,” Ahmann said.
For some reason, Smith was declared dead in 1984 and since he’s been homeless for 30 years, he said he doesn’t have identification, a birth certificate or medical records.
Ahmann believes Smith should be entitled to VA benefits, or at least Medicaid, but has found that without documented proof that he’s alive, they’re stuck.
Still, Smith said he’s appreciative of Ahmann’s help.
“She feeds me great food and she’s a really good cook,” he said. “Whenever I talk about Teri, I always use the word 'amazing' in there.”
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