Volunteers rebuild Navy Veteran's burned down home

DALLAS --  Navy Veteran Al Hearne sleeps in a small trailer known as The Tiger’s Lair – the words are hand-painted on the outside of it's door. It sits on the corner of Marder and Lawrence where his home used to be. 

"It's kind of little,” Hearne laughed. “It might be like four-by-four!”

Before a friend helped him find the trailer, Hearne was homeless and sleeping in his truck. An electrical fire destroyed his Southeast Dallas home three years ago.

"It’s been a little rough, but it's okay that's the way life is,” he said.

The home that burned down belonged to his mother and Hearne grew up there with his own children. Now volunteers are rebuilding it from the ground up.

“The first time we showed up to take a look at the house, we weren't sure if we’d be able to get involved and work on a project that was so extensive,” said Texas Reconstruction Manager Will Anderson. “As soon as we met Al we knew that we were going to get involved and build him a house.”

They put in a new roof, dry wall, plumbing, and electrical. The volunteers spent the weekend painting inside.

“Your home is everything, right? That's true for everyone and you have a real pride and sense of dignity with your home,” explained Jo Phillips, the logistics coordinator for non-profit Rebuilding Together and an AmeriCorps Volunteer.

The rebuild is part of a Rebuilding Together project called Homes for Heroes. Local businesses like ADT Security are volunteering to help build homes for veterans. Hearne served in the navy in the 70s and now works for the VA hospital.

“We are trying to keep people in their homes that they already have instead of building new ones,” Phillips said.

They added a bathroom and another bedroom to Hearne's home and soon it will house four generations.

"It will be my mom, it'll be my grandkids, daughter, son in law, it will be us-- it will be the family,” Hearne said.

Hearne has been helping the volunteers with the rebuild along the way. The home he grew up in, he said, is now even better than before.

"It was a little bitty small house, little bitty rooms, one bathroom, all my family and stuff. Now it's like pow!” he said. “They added another bathroom, added another room, I’ve got this big kitchen, because it was a little bitty kitchen!”

As Hearne looked at the yellow house, or Kingdom Gold as he prefers he's still in shock.

"It's like 'Al, this is really happening.’ ‘No it's not! Yes it is!'" he laughed.

As for that humble trailer sitting out front, the veteran said he's keeping that too.

"’Ok y’all we’re going fishing and we're going to take this trailer with us!’” he laughed. “We’re not going to give it up."

The home should be ready for move in by Father’s Day.