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Local pastors live on streets to better understand homeless

(WCAX)
Published: Oct. 16, 2018 at 10:08 PM PDT
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Two local pastors took drastic measures to try to gain a better understanding of Reno's homeless crisis: they spent a week living on the streets of downtown.

Bill Muck is the senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Sparks. He and his friend, Angelo Austria, who is the pastor at New Life Christian Center in Reno, decided this was the only way they could get members of the homeless community to really open up.

They said -- over the course of their week-long mission -- they gained a level of respect from many homeless residents they came in contact with and they met so many who were able to share their stories of mental illness, addiction, abandonment and more. They heard from those who chose to be homeless and those who felt they could not get out of their situation. But the pastors said one commonality was the danger they all felt every night.

"This is really a different world. You are bombarded with violence, hatred, anger, hopelessness, frustrations, drugs and alcohol, mental illness... I mean it's a different world," says Pastor Angelo.

The pastors know there's no easy fix for Reno's homeless problem, nor are they trying to find one. What they have discovered is something more powerful in themselves.

"It gave me more understanding of what compassion is all about. I think I have that, but I think it took me deeper into what that really means," says Pastor Angelo.

And that's going to help them as they move on to their next step. Now that they are back home with their families and reflecting on their experience, they're trying to come up with ways to engage with other churches and organizations in the community who also want to help the homeless. They're hoping they can all work together.

"We're compiling a list of specific things,"says Pastor Bill. "It's not going to be a simple solution and we don't even think we're going to make a dent in it. But if we can help some, if we can truly help that 20 percent that don't want to be there. Man, it's going to be so worth it."