Help sought for homeless vet

By on January 24, 2019

Homeless vet Joe Fox faces eviction today from Ephrata Twp. property


By Patrick Burns

By all accounts, 78-year-old, Joe Fox did not always do things the right way.

In fact, his friend Bill Whiskeyman said Joe did “a whole lot of things wrong.”

Those “things,” such as not acquiring a valid ID, possibly not filing proper Social Security forms, and ignoring related government withholding requirements, have made Joe a “ghost,” Whiskeyman said.

Joe’s invisibility –  at least to the U.S. government – has complicated a dire crisis as he faces eviction Thursday, Jan. 24, from his 15-year, undocumented housing off Trout Run Road in Ephrata Township.

Magisterial District Judge Tony S. Russell approved a 10-day, notice-to-vacate order after a Jan. 14 ruling favoring the new property owner’s landlord-tenant complaint.

A friend of Joe Fox, 78, said the former U.S. Marine is a ghost as far as the U.S. government is concerned. Fox faces eviction Thursday, Jan. 24, from his 15-year, undocumented housing off Trout Run Road in Ephrata Township. He is often along the busy shops on Route 272.

The owner, who made settlement on the property last May, informed Joe he must leave because the mobile home-type dwelling behind a commercial building – set up by the previous owner – is not a permitted rental unit in Ephrata Township.

The new owner could be subject to  a per-day fine for violating an ordinance prohibiting such housing on the property.

Ephrata Township Manager Steve Sawyer said officials sent a letter in June explaining the structure- which had illegal sewer and electric hook-ups installed by the previous owner – must be abandoned.

“We do not want to put a person out on the street,” Sawyer said. “We were willing to work with the owner and help (Joe).”

Sawyer said social service agencies such as Tabor, Office of Aging, and Ephrata Area Social Services have visited Joe.

Officials provided a final, 90-day extension in November and the new owner finally went to Judge Russell’s court in December.

Sawyer said as time went by, the new owners “were at a loss as to what to do,” and while the township was willing to grant time extensions, the situation “needed to get resolved.”

Joe said he did maintenance and cleaning chores for the previous owners who fed him and allowed him to live for no charge.

Whiskeyman’s letter to the editor seeking assistance in getting Joe housing initiate communications.

Joe eventually contacted The Ephrata Review on a borrowed cell phone Friday Jan. 18.

Whiskeyman, a U.S. Air Force vet, said Joe is in relatively good health for his age but he walks with a cane and has vision issues.”

He said he met Joe at Burger King in October when he approached and asked if Whiskeyman could help him move some things in his pickup truck.

Since then, Whiskeyman has helped feed Joe and help his situation, offering rides and providing trips to medical clinics.

During his one-hour phone call with The Review Friday, Joe exhibited a memory that was sporadically good and bad – sometimes clear and other times sketchy.

Joe, who struggled to walk with a cane, met in person with The Ephrata Review for two hours on Sunday but refused to be photographed.

He wore a type of Karakul hat above dark medical sunglasses on a pale face mostly covered by a long white beard interspersed with dark curls.

Joe, who cannot remember many details of his military service time in the Marines around 1960, said he’d recently had eye surgery that lifted him from a dark depression.

That relief, of course, was short-lived in light of the eviction notice.

Whiskeyman said the lack of documentation has derailed all efforts to get Joe long-term housing.

“The problem is he’s lived his entire life outside the system with absolutely no ID of any kind,” he said. “He may have been in the Social Security System, but the Social Security office couldn’t confirm it.” He never used the banks – a ghost to everyone.”

Whiskeyman said he failed to get Joe’s birth certificate from the state because “sorry, you need two proofs of ID.”

“We went to the Water Street Rescue Mission; ‘sorry no ID,’ one-day stay only,” Whiskeyman said. “We called 211. The workers there give you agencies to call and eventually advised to call 211. A big circle.”

He said the Lancaster County Office of Aging did help some, but so far no one can give him a place to stay.

Whiskeyman said he submitted forms to get military records that Joe cannot find.

“They ran a record search but can’t find any records with the limited info he has,” he said. “All he remembers is his name and birth date – if that is right.”

As of Tuesday, Joe has not procured a place to stay.

“Since no agency can help, I figured his last chance is the public through a newspaper story,” Whiskeyman said.

Whiskeyman said anyone who may have the ability to assist a homeless vet can contact him at

Patrick Burns is News Editor for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 717-721-4455


Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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