A homeless Air Force veteran wins a vaccine Lottery after a streak of unlucky events
You may have heard the phrase, “you cannot win a lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.” While that is true, the pandemic prompted a Lottery that requires no purchase and receiving a vaccine automatically qualifies individuals to participate in auto-enrolled opportunities to win money, scholarships, and other generous prizes. Almost a dozen states in America are rewarding the vaccinated in exchange for a quick jab, and many of those in need have had their lives changed forever.
Some people lose it all before fate takes them for a rejuvenating adventure. One of those lucky folks happened to be Sung-ha Jou, a 44-year-old Air Force veteran, who needed a change now more than ever. Everyone suffered during the pandemic in one way or another, but circumstances hit Jou harder than he ever expected. After losing his job, he couldn’t afford a roof over his head and lost his house. Eventually, he had to give up his vehicle and could no longer pay for his doctor’s appointments.
Jou served in the Air force for 15 years, and when he finally retired, he became a mechanic in a car dealership in VA. During the lockdown, business came to a halt, and he was eventually let go. But the veteran didn’t give up - he gathered all the money he could get from unemployment and made a risky decision, purchasing a van in hopes to become a mobile mechanic. It seemed to be going well until the vehicle gave out, and he couldn’t afford to buy new parts to complete the repairs.
If that wasn’t enough, some jock heartlessly broke into his van, completely clearing it out. No tools, no way to drive around, and not nearly enough money to re-launch his small business. But as long as there’s food and water, everything will eventually be okay, right? If only that was so - Jou stopped receiving food stamps and had a difficult time figuring out how to re-apply. No more food, no more car, and no walls to keep him dry and warm.
“It was really, really rough,” Jou explained. “That’s when I really became aware of some of my mental issues, the PTSD issues that I had either ignored or was too proud to admit to ... I spent a lot of time in my car by myself.”
It’s hard enough to go through such struggles, but a haunting past can easily send a person into a horrific vortex of hopelessness.
When it rains, it pours. But there’s always a sliver of God grants to His people - especially ones that never give up. That single ray of sunshine dawned upon Jou one day, and he learned about the coronavirus vaccine. At the time, he didn’t even know about the lottery. Jou had his doubts, as many do, wondering whether the vaccine is actually safe to take. Jou was, after all, all alone. No one would be around if side effects took him for a wild spin.
People don’t always know when help is on the way, and sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom before God orchestrates a miracle. With that said, Jou’s van was eventually handed over to another owner, and he had no choice but to rest his head under the night sky. After several days of sleeping on the street, the heat from the sun got the best of him, and he lost consciousness.
Thankfully, an ambulance found him and took him to a hospital. He poured his heart out about his struggles to a lady working at the front desk, who graciously collected funds for Jou’s Uber ride to a D.C. homeless shelter.
Weak, disarmed, and hopeless, Jou arrived at the shelter. COVID was spreading like wildfire, and Jou decided that it’s best to get a vaccine, especially considering his situation. Homeless shelters aren’t the cleanest of places, and people from all walks of life pose a risk of spreading the virus.
At that point, he had nothing left to lose, and he decided to at least preserve the one thing that remained in him - his health and life. He was, after all, among 100 strangers in the shelter, and safety had to come first before the fear of side effects. That same day, Jou agreed to receive the vaccine at St Elizabeth’s campus nearby.
Upon the arrival to receive his first dose, he was asked if he also wanted to participate in the vaccine Lottery. He stated later that he vaguely remembers that happening and thought it was some kind of swindle. If only he was aware of what was yet to come. Little did he know that these vaccine lotteries offered massive cash prizes, a free vehicle, and $10,000 (£7,000) worth of grocery store gift cards.
Later that week, Jou was informed that he won the lottery to help him get back on his feet, have transportation to doctor’s appointments, assistance from social services, and more. It would also give him a lot of wiggle room to find a new home to live in and get his business back on track. Twelve months of free rides on the D.C. Metro system was a breath of fresh air that filled his lungs with hope once again. Prior to this, he traveled for hours to get to his appointments from the shelter.
“This is literally God-sent. I am so grateful for this,” he mentioned when telling the story. “It’s just out of nowhere. When I thought everything was going wrong, this really helped me out.”
He spent a few weeks at the shelter but was finally assisted by the veteran’s hotline that helped him find a transitional home in SE Washington. He finally had a room he could call his own until he found a permanent place to live and got guidance to reapply for his food stamps.
Jou is now on his way to land a new job in D.C. and is ecstatic about the opportunity to have transportation for a whole year. Not many people would see something as simple as “free rides” as a blessing, but Jou will remember this time in his life forever.