Neighbors form lasting friendship with homeless man, find him place to live

Photo obtained by FOX 17 News

Never judge a book by its cover. Two women in East Nashville learned this after befriending a homeless man. Jerry Judkins has lived in East Nashville for 65 years, but this past month, he found himself unable to afford his home.

Neighbors saw Jerry, or “JJ” walking up and down their street frequently over the years. They recognized him as a neighbor, but never knew exactly where he lived.

Stacia Martin-West saw JJ shivering in the rain one cold January morning. It was clear he needed medical attention and had not been getting medicine for his diabetes.

“We basically texted all of our neighborhood friends and everyone gathered at the house that night,” Martin-West said.

The neighbors decided they needed to help JJ. They took him to the hospital the next day, and that’s where friendships started to blossom.

They took the time to learn his backstory. They learned he used to own a business for transporting bodies to and from funeral homes. He was married for 31 years and when his wife died he lost connection to any other family. Recently, he stopped being able to afford the rising Nashville costs and had been evicted from his home.

“That's the first time in my life I've ever had to live that way. I've always had a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator,” JJ said.

The neighbors started working with assisted living centers to find a place where their new friend could call home and get the treatment he needed.

Bristol Terrace Assisted Living and Memory Care eventually became the perfect fit. The neighbors started a GoFundMe to cover what insurance wouldn’t. In just one day they raised more than $1,800, but they would need $6,600.

However, Bristol Terrace executives took the time to meet JJ. They saw how much the community was willing to help and agreed to let JJ move in early, even before all the money was raised.

“I just wish I could return the favors,” JJ said.

However, he doesn’t know how much he’s already done for everyone.

“He's always got a good joke for everything and he's got amazing stories to share,” neighbor and friend Jessica Wilkins said.

If you'd like to help support JJ before insurance kicks in, here’s a link.

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