Workers Help Afflicted Woman Living Out Of Car In Office Parking Lot With Two Cats

Nov 23, 2020 by apost team

Employees at Aerotek, a staffing agency in Tinley Park, Illinois, were shocked to find a woman sleeping in her car in their parking lot. Ruth Van Heel, 59, had fallen on hard times after her parents passed away, and she ended up living in her car with her two cats. 

Determined to help, the employees took to the internet to share Van Heel's story. That's when the community stepped up and helped raise funds for the woman, found a foster home for her pets, and got her in a shelter. 

Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video.

Ruth Van Heel was forced to leave her job when both her parents became ill and unable to care for themselves. When they passed away, she was left with nothing but her car, a cellphone, and her two cats.

"I've had them for three years and I ran out of money – like so many people have with Covid," Van Heel told CBS Chicago. "I couldn't get a place to stay, and I couldn't get a shelter."

She had tried to check into a homeless shelter but ultimately decided against it when she was told her cats could not stay with her. 

"They're my babies," Van Heel said of her cats. "Her name is Pumpkin and his name is Pusscat."

With no money, no place to go, and unable to bear life without her pets, she ended up living in her car.  She drove around and slept in various parking lots around Chicago for two months before office workers at Aerotek noticed her.

With no money, no place to go, and unable to bear life without her pets, she ended up living in her car. She drove around and slept in various parking lots around Chicago for two months before office workers at Aerotek noticed her. 

Touched by her story, the workers knew they needed to take action to help her get back on her feet. They started small by giving her food, blankets, and books to keep her busy. Katie Murawski, a Customer Support Supervisor at Aerotek, set up a GoFundMe Page to help Van Heel and took to social media to find a foster home for her precious cats. 

"We kind of took a liking to her and we just wanted to help her out," Murawski told CBS. 

One local, Janine Marino, caught wind of the social media campaign and stepped up to help by taking in Pumpkin and Pusscat. 

"A lot of times, we condemn people for giving up their pets, but a lot of times, what we don't see is it's an absolutely desperate situation; a very last resort," Marino said. 

Although heartbroken to let her babies go, Van Heel was grateful they could have a warm home so she can focus on getting back on her feet. 

"I promised to work to get them adopted into a wonderful home," Marino said. In the meantime, she makes sure to update Van Heel on her fur babies every day by texting her photos and videos. 

Van Heel has since found a shelter to stay in and is now planning on learning a trade. In the meantime, her GoFundMe page has raised over $11,000 in less than a month, thanks to the local community's generosity. 

Grateful as she may be, Van Heel worries for others who might find themselves in the same situation that are not as lucky. 

"There are people like me and there's nowhere to go," Van Heel warns. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on economies across the globe, homelessness means many cannot practice social distancing or quarantine safely. Margot Kushel, a national expert on homelessness in the USA, has called the pandemic her "worse nightmare."

"People who are homeless are disproportionately older and sicker," she told the University of California San Francisco's magazine

"Many have underlying conditions – such as lung disease and diabetes – that set them up for disastrous outcomes. Add a highly communicable disease that spreads through a respiratory mode to a population living in crowded conditions with poor access to basic hygiene, and you have a nightmare scenario."

With the economic downturn, an increasing number of people are at risk of homelessness, creating a 'crisis on a crisis.' While many are lucky enough to work from home, others like restaurant employees, cleaners, and those who work in transportation, are facing unemployment as social life continues to be restricted. That much makes it so crucial, now more than ever, to not forget those who are in need and, as Van Heel puts it, show a little kindness whenever possible. 

Murawski has stayed in touch with Van Heel since she joined the shelter and, in her latest update to fundraisers, has said the 59-year-old is "staying extremely positive and motivated."

We're happy to hear that locals stepped up to help Van Heel when she found herself in a desperate situation. Do you have a heartwarming of the community coming together to help someone in need? Let us know in the comments, and make sure you pass this story to your friends and family! 

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