Family of 13 Lives in Tent for 3 Months Before Utah Realtor Buys Them Home: ‘A Huge Blessing’

Family of 13 Lives in Tent for 3 Months Before Utah Realtor Buys Them Home: ‘A Huge Blessing’
(Courtesy of Brittny Shelton)

A family of 13 given 30 days’ notice to leave a rented house in Utah suddenly found themselves with nowhere to live. With scant options for a family of their size, they moved into a tent. However, their fortune took a turn when a local real estate agent heard of their plight and offered to buy their dream property.

Brittny and Danny Shelton, aged 39 and 40, are raising their kids in Tremonton, Utah. Both in helping professions, they work full time in registration for a hospital emergency room and as a city firefighter and EMT, respectively.

They were working on buying their rented house—their treasured home of seven years—until the housing market changed, and their landlord decided to sell up; he told them on June 29 that they had 30 days to find somewhere to live.

“We had no clue,” Brittny told The Epoch Times. “The future that we had planned in this home was no longer happening. We paid our rent and took great care of the home; we even paid to have new flooring put into it just weeks before this happened.”

Danny (2nd-L) and Brittny Shelton with their children. (Courtesy of <a href="">Brittny Shelton</a>)
Danny (2nd-L) and Brittny Shelton with their children. (Courtesy of Brittny Shelton)

The prospect of leaving their friends and neighbors was equally devastating for the Sheltons’ kids, ranging in age from 16 to 1 year old: Adler, Teagan, Aryiana, Takoda, Aimryn, twins Azlyn and Tedric, Albricht, Thaydin, Aurorah, and baby Trezlyn.

They had to stay in Tremonton because, if Danny left, he would lose his job. However, Brittny said that for the few rental homes that exist in the area, there were “long waiting lists.”

“We were blindsided!” she said. “With our family size in the best conditions, it’s hard to find a place, and with the housing shortage, especially to rent, because everyone is selling—it’s tough.

“Money was never the issue, but finding a place that we could all fit was difficult. To add to that, when you say you have 11 children, not many are willing to give you a chance.”

They spoke to local news media to publicize their story in July, concerned that other families were also facing homelessness due to the shortage of properties. Someone local reached out to offer a small storage unit, a blessing to the Sheltons, but a blow to have to part with many of their belongings. An international audience reached out to donate food, blankets, clothing, and prayers.

“But no houses,” said Brittny. “One person stated that they owned some land, but it was 30 minutes outside of town.” Nonetheless, the family was out of options. They set up camp on that land and stayed for three long months.

“Living in a tent with 13 people was crazy,” Brittny reflected. “[We] had no running water or bathrooms. There was dirt everywhere all the time. We were cooking on a barbecue grill and had no fridge. The kids couldn’t play as normal because there were snakes and coyotes, and we even saw a mountain lion.”

As summer ended and the mountains grew cold, Brittny and Danny worried, but comforted themselves with a family motto: “As long as we are together, and healthy, that’s what matters.”

Their guardian angel came along in the nick of time. Realtor Russell Faucett of Salt Lake City heard the Sheltons’ story from a local radio station through which he advertises, and called them with a proposition: he wanted to buy a house to rent to them, but he wanted them to choose it.

Brittny and Danny had reservations and refrained from telling their kids. “Things had been so hard, letdown after letdown; we didn’t want to get too excited and have it not happen,” Brittny said.

Yet the prospect of a new home in their time of greatest need was irresistible. They began searching and found a 4-bedroom home in Tremonton, fully refurbished. Russell even hired a team to transform half the family room into two additional bedrooms, as the Sheltons wanted.

Everyone cried the day they got the keys in mid-September and the kids saw their new home for the first time. Brittny said that “Thank you” is not enough for “amazing, good-hearted” Russell and his immense generosity.

“He has been such a huge blessing to our family,” she said. “He reached out to help and went above and beyond. He never really shared why he decided to help us other than he heard our story, knew he needed to do something, and was in a position to help at the time so he did.”

(Illustration - <a href="">Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash</a>)
(Illustration - Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash)

While house-hunting, Brittny and Danny met numerous families in the same position who were “being kicked out and nowhere to go.”

“There are no homes to rent because everyone is selling and the few that are up for rent, there is a waiting list, giving people in this situation no hope,” she said. “Landlords know they have the upper hand in this situation and can charge above and beyond because people are desperate to keep a roof over their heads. I’ve met so many families on this journey, and it’s sad that this is happening to so many good families.”

Lucas Martin, director of human services for Bear River Association of Governments, told KUTV in July that the housing shortage in Utah’s Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties is “a tremendous challenge,” particularly in rural areas. Over the course of a “normal year,” the association receives roughly 300 requests for emergency rent assistance. In June alone, they had 109.

But selfless deeds of kindness can change lives just like the Sheltons experienced. They plan to purchase their new home from Russell one day, making it their own.

“He has said we could do at any time,” Brittny said. “He told us that this is our home and to treat it as such.”

Brittny said that their family learned a lot from this situation, which was by far “the hardest thing” they have ever been through.

“Now our issue is replacing the furniture we had to get rid of, but we figure in time it will happen. We have a home, and that’s enough for us!” she concluded.

Arshdeep Sarao contributed to this report.
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