- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - A chronically homeless Detroit woman finally has a more traditional roof over her head after living in a small unheated warehouse with her cat for 10 years.

Lorene Vanzomeren told the Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/1BQrbga ) that she has struggled with heroin addiction and alcohol abuse for decades. The 57-year-old said she became homeless about 15 years ago, when her husband died and she lost her job as a cook.

After living in an abandoned fire hall, Vanzomeren eventually was asked to serve as the unofficial security guard at Eastern Market’s Shed 1 following a string of break-ins. In the cinder-block warehouse, she had a bed, microwave oven, and 5-gallon bucket used as a toilet, as well as two small space heaters that didn’t do much to fight the cold.

“I can handle this. To me, it’s comfortable,” she said

But Vanzomeren has moved into an apartment, with the help of Southwest Solutions and the owners of Eastern Market’s Shed 1. Southwest Solutions is a proponent of the “housing first” model, which prioritizes finding housing for new clients before addressing other problems such as substance abuse and mental illness.

That model has led to a 17 percent drop in homelessness in the U.S. since 2005, the National Alliance to End Homelessness said last year.

Vanzomeren is living in an apartment building owned by Shed 1 co-owner Andrew Lightbody. Rent is $648 a month and will be covered by a federal housing voucher. Shed 1 owners planned to make other arrangements for security, and they would welcome Vanzomeren to work there during the day.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com

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