OU student, local pastor begin experiment to experience homelessness
BY THE NUMBERS
251 Total sheltered
314 Total persons unsheltered
82 chronically homeless
Source: 2010 Point-in-time summary for Norman
Astrud Reed, The Oklahoma Daily
An OU student and local pastor are leaving their homes and hitting the streets for ten days to gain perspective on the treatment and daily experience of the homeless.
Music education senior Philip Nguyen and Grace Church lead pastor Dustin Buff began the social experiment Sunday.
Buff and Nguyen each only took a sleeping bag, a Bible, two forms of ID, a cell phone and one change of clothes, Nguyen said.
The cell phones will be used as a safety precaution, and Buff will use his to keep in contact with his wife, Nguyen said.
Nguyen seeks to gain perspective on what it’s like to be a homeless college student who has to figure out where to eat and sleep, he said.
Obtaining the everyday homeless person’s perspective is a main focus, Buff said. He can’t completely understand every aspect of being homeless, because each person’s story is different, he said. Not knowing where he will sleep at night, how he will find his next meal or how he will get a job, however, will give him some insight into the daily struggle, he said.
Even though he knows that his wife and kids will be taken care of while he’s gone, Buff will still have to face the difficulty of his situation and try to improve it, he said.
Buff has had a passion for helping the homeless for the past few years, he said. He’s served at soup kitchens and a homeless ministry in Nashville. Every time he did something, however, he felt like he was just putting a Band-Aid on the situation—it wasn’t really fixing anything. It was meeting a need, but people eventually would be hungry again.
“We believe that real-life change happens relationally,” Buff said. “If we can go and build some relationships, then we can meet that need so much more.”
Relationships help to understand what the real needs are, he said.
“It’s hard to understand the needs if we can’t really relate,” Buff said.
Grace Church plans to have Buff and Nguyen to speak about their experience during the month of November. Buff said he has no idea what he will discuss because he has no idea what’s going to happen—maybe it will produce gratitude or inspire dedication.
Whatever it is, he said he won’t know until he’s gone through the experience.
“I just kind of want to let this experience speak to me, hear from God in this time and then share whatever that is,” Buff said.