CityTeam: Ex-homeless clients build homes for displaced Hondurans

Tom Boland (
Thu, 20 May 1999 13:29:58 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  San Jose Mercury News - Tuesday, May 18, 1999


By Betty Barnacle, Mercury News Staff Writer

When his 15-year-old son was killed in an auto accident almost 10 years
ago, Brian Gize of San Jose slipped into a downward spiral fueled by
alcohol and cocaine. He wound up living on the streets for nearly three
years, sleeping in an abandoned car behind CityTeam Ministries.

   Now he has a bed inside the CityTeam recovery center and a job as a
truck driver. He is giving back to others, too, having just returned to San
Jose after spending three weeks in Honduras building houses for those made
homeless by Hurricane Mitch.

   Gize and other CityTeam people from San Jose said they were helping
themselves as well as the Hondurans.

   Chaplain Mike Borden of CityTeam has been taking center volunteers to
Central America since February to help rebuild the northeast towns of El
Progreso and Nacional. Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras in October 1998 and
killed 2,000 people. The local volunteers work with other CityTeam men from
throughout the United States, their air fare and supplies paid for by
donations from their hometowns, Borden said.

   The volunteers brought their tools with them and purchased their
building supplies when they got there. It was grinding work, hand-mixing
cement for the floors of concrete-block houses that replaced fragile wooden
structures, some just bound sticks raised over dirt.

   The San Jose homeless were deeply moved by Hondurans in the same situation.

   ``I was stunned,'' said Gize, 48. ``I've never seen such poverty. Yet
the people share what they have. There's no greed. Being homeless here is
very different. You can get help at the mission. A meal. A shower. But down
there, when you're homeless, you're gone.''

   Doug Hopkins, 46, a CityTeam employee and former client, said he was
overwhelmed with sadness when he saw towns were half-buried by a sea of
mud. He couldn't shake the feeling the whole time he was there.

  Hopkins never was homeless but was lost in alcoholism for 25 years.

   ``CityTeam gave me back my real life. They gave me the tools for
everyday life,'' he said, adding that he volunteered for the Honduras trip
to give back because he'd gotten so much.

   ``I felt a lot of guilt and compassion for those people because compared
to them I am filthy rich,'' Hopkins said. ``I thought I was prepared for
what I would see but I wasn't. The day after I came back here, I spent some
time with the Lord and I must have cried two or three gallons of tears.''

   Like a good many of the San Jose volunteers, Hopkins focused on helping
one of the Honduran youngsters during his group's three-week stint.

   He befriended a child with a broken arm. Margarita, 7, wouldn't stop
crying when she learned he was leaving, he said. Hopkins emptied his
pockets before getting on the plane and gave all his money to Margarita's

   Both Gize and Hopkins said they hope to one day return to El Progreso
and Nacional to visit the Hondurans who made them see their own lives in a
new light.

The American Red Cross accepts donations to help Hondurans. Checks should
be made out to American Red Cross International Response with a notation
that the money is for Honduras. Mail to The Red Cross, 2731 N. First St.,
San Jose, Calif. 95134.


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