YELM, Wash. -- She is a retired caregiver who is use to helping people out. But Velma Kellen had no idea she had been sharing her home with a complete stranger. And it may have been for up to a year.
For months, there were mysterious signs - backyard gates left open, a strange smell somehow coming into the house.
"I can't say marijuana," said Kellen. "I don't know what marijuana smells like, but it was worse than cigarettes."
Then Kellen noticed parts of her house were inexplicably getting cold. The furnace repairman climbed into her crawl space to see where the heat may be going. That's when he made the discovery.
"[He said] 'Good news I got your vents fixed, but the bad news somebody's been making their home under there,'" Kellen said.
They found beer cans and liquor bottles. The intruder even cut into her heating duct to get warm.
"I said, 'You've got to be kidding!'" said Kellen.
Based on the length of time Kellen remembers smelling the smoke in her house, the intruder may have been staying in the crawl space for up to a year. And neither Kellen or her neighbors heard or saw a thing.
"To think that someone is going down there and living, obviously a sign of desperation for them," said Yelm police chief Todd Stancil, who had never seen anything like it before. "Pretty concerning for most people who have crawl spaces."
Stancil says there are homeless shelters in Yelm, but none of them allow drinking or smoking inside.
Kellen is taking it all in stride but is making sure to lock up the crawl space.