Other homeless people offered the men tips: Grab a nap in a hospital waiting room, but move from waiting room to waiting room to avoid being thrown out for lingering. Look for an abandoned house. Use fence lines or houses as windbreakers.
Besides surmounting difficulties such as finding food and shelter, the homeless face depression and low self-esteem.
“Hope is so hard to come by, saying to yourself, ‘I can do better. I should have a home. I deserve a home.' This is the most pressing problem I saw, and where I believe we are failing on a broad scale,” Buff said.
Surviving is one thing, but living an abundant life is another, he said.
Buff and Nguyen set out to build relationships with homeless people.
“I wanted to hear their stories. I wanted to know what kinds of things they faced. What obstacles were in their way,” Buff said.
Buff and other members of his church regularly volunteer at Food and Shelter “but I was afraid we were merely applying a Band-aid. I wanted to know what more we could do.”
The two weren't out to convert people or enlist membership for their church.
“Our church believes in going to where the people are, not saying you have to come to us,” he said.
No single profile fits the homeless person, Buff said. “Some are victims of tragedy. Someone they loved who they depended upon died. Some were victims of fire. Some are mentally ill. Addiction is a problem for others,” he said.
Most were not far removed from ordinary circumstances.
“Many people are one crisis or one paycheck away from being in a similar circumstance,” he said.
Nguyen and Buff hope to take their experience and turn it into practical help.
“There's no one-stop solution,” Buff said. “But what I am really passionate about is putting that hope in them, helping them make that transition into believing they can do better and that they do deserve better.”