A victim of a brutal attack by a homeless man is not letting that deter him from helping the homeless community. Susie Steimle reports. (3-12-21)
KEN BASTIDA: San Jose tonight, it has been almost four months since a homeless man allegedly stabbed five people inside Grace Baptist Church. Tonight, one of those survivors-- a church volunteer-- is sharing his story exclusively with KPIX 5.
ELIZABETH COOK: He tells Susie Steimle why he's more determined than ever to help, in this original report.
SUSIE STEIMLE: While the weather at this time of year is a bit unreliable, there's one thing at Columbus Park in San Jose that you can count on-- Nguyen Pham will be there delivering food to the homeless.
NGUYEN PHAM: I try to get to know everyone by their first name. And I get pretty upset at myself if I don't remember their name the second time I meet them.
SUSIE STEIMLE: It's just one of many ways Nguyen treats people experiencing homelessness like a friend first. He knows trust is the most valuable currency out here, and that it's not easily earned. Trust in this community is something he struggles with, too.
NGUYEN PHAM: It's more about trust issues, I think, that a lot of the theme of my dream is about trust issues. I myself still have PTSD about the incident. Lots of nightmares, left scars in my face, my neck, and everything.
SUSIE STEIMLE: When Nguyen goes to sleep, his subconscious takes him back to this night in November. He was one of five volunteers at Grace Baptist Church to be stabbed by a homeless man he was helping. He has scars on his neck and cheek, and says he had a blade stuck in his head for three hours at the hospital.
Was there a moment when you maybe thought you might die?
NGUYEN PHAM: There was a moment, yeah.
SUSIE STEIMLE: Two of the volunteers didn't survive. But as soon as he started to heal, Nguyen he came right back here.
NGUYEN PHAM: I believe a week after the incident, I started coming back. And you know, the moment I pulled up to the park here, other homeless individuals start coming out and welcomed me. And that's when I knew that, you know, coming back is not a bad idea.
SUSIE STEIMLE: You're someone who has every reason to feel like you shouldn't trust this community, or like you don't feel safe because of what happened. But you don't feel that way.
NGUYEN PHAM: No, I do not.
SUSIE STEIMLE: For Nguyen, the enemy isn't the man due in court. The real problem is that so many people are still out here.
What do you think will help the most in terms of helping the homeless? What needs to change?
NGUYEN PHAM: Housing, first.
SUSIE STEIMLE: And until they're housed, he'll be here to help.
NGUYEN PHAM: Don't let what happened to me define the community that we serve and love.
SUSIE STEIMLE: Nguyen told me that he's not comfortable discussing the details of that night because of his personal PTSD. But he's also been advised by the DA's office not to divulge too much detail because the suspect still hasn't appeared in court. Susie Steimle, KPIX 5.
KEN BASTIDA: That suspect in the stabbing happens to be an undocumented immigrant who had been deported three times. Has a long criminal history.