Vietnamese restaurant owner builds team to help Houston’s homeless
Vo Hoai Trung decided to thank the Houston community for supporting his Alief restaurant by providing some of its homeless residents with food and gear to help them stay warm this winter.
On Monday, Nov. 26, Vo and about two dozen other volunteers gathered at Bun Cha Ca Da Nang, the Vietnamese restaurant that he has owned in Alief for about three years. They prepared 250 fishcake sandwiches and loaded them into cargo vans, along with 250 cakes, 100 sleeping bags, 100 tents, 30 beanies, 10 pillows and 200 pairs of socks and gloves, ready to distribute first in Alief and then in downtown Houston.
Having lived in Houston his whole life, Vo has seen a lot of people in Houston in need and started the organization he calls Houston Thong Tin to try to help the situation. In just three months, the group has gained nearly 17,000 members on Facebook, mostly from the Vietnamese community, Vo said. He said in 2019 he hopes to get official status as 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but in the meantime, he will continue the generous work.
“We are here to help our community. We are new here, so we start off with the Vietnamese community first. So we did helped them already,” Vo said. “Now, we’re expanding a little bit to help the homeless first, so pretty much what we’re doing here is everyone, you know, [wants] to help a hand to build a better community and give back.”
Vo said he plans to do the charity projects monthly. The first three outings have been funded mostly by the restaurant but also through some small donations from HTT members and other Alief businesses. According to Vo, the Nov. 26 project cost the restaurant about $2,000.
He said transparency around funding is critical, noting that detailed lists are posted on Facebook within a couple of days after each project, showing exactly how each dollar was used and where it came from. The idea, Vo said, is really starting to take off.
“Now, the community actually believes in us and trusts us with the funds,” Vo said. “We get small donations like $10 or $20. It adds up. We use all this money to buy things that we need.”
Vo said at first, some in the Vietnamese community asked why he wanted to help homeless people, many of whom look differently than they do.
“You think the colors matter? Homeless is homeless,” Vo responded. “If they need your help and you can help, why don’t you help? So I told them straight up, ‘I don’t care — black, yellow, blue, gray — I don’t care. This is charity. The way charity means you are helping everyone.’”
Recently, Vo graduated from the Houston Police Academy and hopes to get hired as a constable. He said a job in law enforcement and the work he has been doing with the homeless boil down to the same premise: bettering the lives of those around him.
As the volunteers prepared to hand out the food and gear, Vo said giving during the holiday season was particularly appropriate. He said a lot of his motivation to do good in Houston comes from his faith.
“Everybody has their own faith. Some people are lucky like me. You know, I’m fortunate that I have a good job, a good life, but some people don’t,” he said. “Not every homeless [person] chose that way - it’s the situations. We feel blessed that where we’re at right now, we have something to eat: warm food, warm blanket. So, you know, it’s just a small thing that you can help, but it makes a big difference to that person.”
Bun Cha Ca Da Nang is located at 12168 Bellaire Blvd, Ste. 333, and specializes if fish noodles. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/BunChaCaDaNangHouston/. For more information about Houston Thong Tin or to join, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/754607671346948/?source_id=437135213481734.