Vic­tim in fatal stab­bing left the streets for a new life,

Glen Bur­ford was help­ing home­less, bet­ter­ing him­self.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Hall khall@states­man.com

Friends are mourn­ing the death of a man who had es­caped the dan­ger of liv­ing on Austin’s streets and was on the verge of mak­ing a bet­ter home for him­self, only to be slain by an at­tacker last week.

Glen Bur­ford, 51, who was found with a fatal stab wound at an East Austin bus stop, was a reg­u­lar writer for The Challenger Street News­pa­per, a monthly publi­ca­tion that cov­ers the home­less com­mu­nity. Bur­ford was for­merly home

less him­self, said the news­pa­per’s ed­i­tor and di­rec­tor, Va­lerie Rom­ness. At 3:30 p.m. Sun­day, Bur­ford’s friends plan to re­mem­ber him by gath­er­ing un­der a tree at Au­di­to­rium Shores, where a me­mo­rial plaque hon­ors home­less in­di­vid­u­als who have died in Austin.

“He’ll be deeply missed,” Rom­ness said. The staff meet­ing Wed­nes­day “was rather shock­ing be­cause we had just talked to him last week . ... It’s shaken us up,” she said.

Rom­ness said she has no clue who would have killed Bur­ford or why.

Austin po­lice got a 911 call March 10 at 7:53 p.m. about a man, later iden­ti­fied as Bur­ford, who col­lapsed near a bus stop at East Sev­enth and Co­mal streets. He died soon after medics drove him to Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Brack­en­ridge. Po­lice said they be­lieve Bur­ford was stabbed nearby be­fore mak­ing his way to the bus stop.

Austin po­lice haven’t yet iden­ti­fied or ar­rested a sus­pect in Bur­ford’s death, which they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing as a homi­cide. De­tec­tives de­clined to say more about the case to avoid jeop­ar­diz­ing the

in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bur­ford earned money by wash­ing the win­dows of busi­nesses, in­clud­ing hers, Rom­ness said. He had been liv­ing in a board­ing home at Sev­enth and Co­mal streets in East Austin, and he was get­ting to the top of Sec­tion 8 hous­ing wait­ing lists, friends said.

While many Challenger ar­ti­cles tackle com­mu­nity is­sues, Rom­ness said that Bur­ford pri­mar­ily wrote fic­tion, of­ten about char­ac­ters who were out fish­ing.

“He was a great con­trib­u­tor to our writer pool,” Rom­ness said.

Robert Bent­ley, who met Bur­ford as a vol­un­teer for the food bank run by Westover Hills Church of Christ in West Austin, said he thinks Bur­ford’s work at the Challenger gave him the self-con­fi­dence he needed to seek out per­ma­nent hous­ing.

“I think maybe the most won­der­ful thing about his writ­ing is it brought him into con­tact with peo­ple who val­ued his life,” Bent­ley said. “I think he started to see that and take ac­tions and make choices that val­ued him­self.”

Bent­ley had known Bur­ford for about five years. Bur­ford started com­ing to the church be­cause it was right in front of a Cap­i­tal Metro bus stop, Bent­ley said.

Bur­ford pro­vided in­sight into the best ways the food bank, which typ­i­cally caters to low-in­come peo­ple with homes, could also help the home­less com­mu­nity, Bent­ley said. For ex­am­ple, those who are home­less need canned food with pop-tops, in­stead of ones re­quir­ing can-open­ers, and they need food that is ready to eat and doesn’t re­quire prepa­ra­tion.

Bur­ford also taught the food bank’s vol­un­teers that pur­chas­ing bus passes for home­less in­di­vid­u­als can be a huge help, Bent­ley said.

Bur­ford also would of­ten use the church to make copies of pam­phlets and doc­u­ments about home­less ser­vices in Cen­tral Texas to give to other folks he knew who lived on the streets, Bent­ley said.

“I think, more than most home­less folks, he was a lit­tle bit more out­go­ing and a lit­tle more will­ing to share in­for­ma­tion about what his needs were and what other home­less needs were,” Bent­ley said. “He was re­ally self­aware and re­ally can­did about what his chal­lenges were.”

He said he felt hon­ored to see Bur­ford change his life.

“He achieved an as­ton­ish­ing amount of per­sonal growth in the last few years of his life, and I’m re­ally glad he got to ex­pe­ri­ence that. He got to be around peo­ple who were re­ally vo­cal about how they cared about him at the church and the Challenger,” Bent­ley said.

Of course, that made the news of Bur­ford’s killing even more shock­ing, Bent­ley said.

“After all the changes he’d made in his life — he was liv­ing in a home, liv­ing in­de­pen­dently,” he said. “It was re­ally sur­pris­ing to have that end now, as op­posed to when he was fac­ing a lot of risks on the streets.”

For now, Bent­ley said he’s fo­cused on Bur­ford’s up­com­ing me­mo­rial, but he is con­cerned about the homi­cide case as well.

“I also know that cases like this are tra­di­tion­ally not the kind of cases that get a lot of po­lice re­sources thrown at them,” Bent­ley said. “Know­ing that has kind of tem­pered my ex­pec­ta­tions a lit­tle bit.”

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