NORMAN — Just because you don’t see homeless people lining up to get food every night outside of the shelter, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, said Dusty Buff, lead pastor of Grace Church in Norman.
Buff and student pastor Philip Nguyen are spending 10 days in Norman living life as homeless people would. The two decided to begin this project, “One Sent,” to gain perspective on what it is like to be homeless to better meet the needs of their beneficiaries.
They began their first night in a wooded area Sunday night, and as they approach the middle of their journey, both said they have learned a lot in the past few days.
The two have traveled to several organizations in Norman that provide resources for the homeless. With no shelter, no food and no money, it’s resources and organizations like these that have helped them and countless others survive off of “primal needs,” Buff said.
While there are places and resources that help the homeless with those needs, it’s just not enough, Buff said.
The two said they have probably seen around 200 homeless people in Norman over the past few days and there are around 1,700 in the area.
With the shelters away from “the beaten path,” Buff said you won’t see people lined up for dinner or carrying everything with them from the day lined up to get shelter for the night.
“If you live here, you want that, right? You don’t want to see that. But, don’t you really want to just stop it?” he said.
There is a place in Norman, Transition House, that helps homeless people through programs that try to help reacclimate them into society, but their focus is on those who have mental illnesses.
Nguyen said if the homeless individual doesn’t know how to do laundry or cook, Transition House will teach them those things, but they won’t do the tasks for them.
“They’ll incorporate them to be productive, independent citizens of society,” Nguyen said.
The pastors said there should be more resources similar to this to help the homeless, things like job training that will open opportunities.
Nguyen said while talking to people, many of them share stories about how they have hit “rock bottom” and how easy it is to get weighed down by that.
“How do you come out of that?” Nguyen said.
While many of those basic needs are being met, there are other needs that aren’t being met, Buff said.
Staying in shelters is safe and food and resources are available, but living that lifestyle is exhausting, not only physically but emotionally, he said.
“Hope — that’s hard to come by,” he said. “It destroys a little bit of your ambition.”
Buff said they need to look beyond fulfilling primal needs for people to help them live a normal, easier life again.
“I want basic needs, I want decent quality of life for the people who aren’t in the state where they want out, but I want the dream for all the people who want out (of homelessness). I want them living the life they were created for, on purpose,” Buff said.
The two have been keeping video diaries throughout their journey. The videos can be viewed at their church’s Facebook page, Grace Church Norman, at www.facebook.com/gracechurchnorman.
And, for the record, they said many homeless people carry cell phones, even touch-screen phones. Nguyen said he is no longer surprised to see an iPhone at the Salvation Army.