Code enforcement officer helps veterans keep their homes after bringing them up to code

TAMPA, Fla. (KABC) -- Ruth Leath Bryan can barely navigate her yard. Her husband, a Navy veteran, can't even leave their home.

"They diagnosed him with dementia and he has gotten worse in the last six months," Bryan said.

And so has their living situation. A yard full of weeds just scratches the surface. Bryan said they also had a leak in their roof and their porch is falling apart.

Bryan and her husband were also wracking up thousands of dollars in fines for code violations and were at risk of losing their home.

"I knew I couldn't pay them. I would have to get a tent and go live in the woods, I guess," she said.

Their case got the attention of code enforcement officer Christine Zien McCombs.

The former detective, now working in Tampa, Florida, launched a program called Code Vet after noticing a troubling trend: Veterans with too many code violations.

"My thought was these are veterans that fought for our country, protected us all this time," McCombs said. "They protected us. Why can't we have a community do a basic payback?"

So she recruited a community. Volunteers and businesses help by cleaning debris, getting them new garage doors, repairing plumbing and roofs and ultimately saving their homes.

"I don't know what we would've done without them. I really don't. They were a godsend," Bryan said.

Code Vet has helped more than 100 families so far, but it's seldom a one-time fix, as follow-ups are part of their mission.

Code Vet has grown so rapidly it is now a nonprofit organization. Visit their website to learn more. They may also be able to help if you're interested in starting a version of Code Vet in Southern California.
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