83° F Thursday, July 20, 2017

Homeless Coach, the Westlake-based foundation that helps hook up the homeless to the Austin community via the Internet, is asking for help in getting a family of 12 back on its feet.
Buffie and Daniel Hoffman and their 10 children, ranging in ages from 9 months to 14, have been in Austin since the end of August. For the most part, they’ve been homeless. But now, thanks to a 70-year-old cashier at a major discount retailer named Betty, the family has found a temporary home.
The family left Wisconsin on Aug. 7, 2011 and headed in a nine-passenger Dodge Durango with 10 pets to Granbury, Texas, where Daniel was hoping to find a job at the Comanche Peak Power Plant. When the job failed to materialize, they headed to Austin with hopes of finding support from the community and work in the Internet technology field.
They initially spent a few nights in motels paid for by local churches and nonprofit organizations. They spent two short stint at a home lent by an out-of-town owner, and they have spent more than a few nights in their car in retail parking lots.
“The Hoffmans are a good, loving family that has spiraled from riches to rags and are now at significant risk of breakup – not by their own choosing, but by misinterpretation and intervention by well-meaning groups,” said Tom Baum, Homeless Coach founder. “The longer they stay homeless, the higher the chances of eventual breakup.”
The sheer size of the family with the addition of pets makes it difficult for many agencies to help them, Baum said. Since arriving in Austin, the family has received a leased 32-foot travel trailer and a used car donated by Eanes school district bus driver Roger Sanchez and his wife, Judy. The Hoffmans used the car and their old Durango to trade up to a 15-passenger van with enough seatbelts for everyone. But they ran into problems finding a place to hook up the RV.
“We found that RV parks have a problem with children; many don’t allow children at all,” Daniel said.
In 2008, things were looking pretty rosy for the Hoffman family. Daniel was working as the COO for a Wisconsin manufacturing company where Buffie worked as vice president of marketing. When their paychecks began to bounce, Buffie quit. Daniel hung on, but later lost his job when the company went out of business, the Hoffman’s said. Soon, the family lost its townhome.
“We used to live in a really nice home with a walk-around fireplace, a playroom and a kitchen with double ovens and tile floors,” Buffie said. “I never imagined we could be where we are now.”
The Hoffman’s do not receive welfare. They do receive food stamps and medical benefits through Medicaid. They calculate that it would take a salary of at least $60,000 a year to feed their family and pay for the expenses associated with connecting the RV. Taking a job for less would put the family in even more trouble, with the loss of food stamps, Daniel said. He spends most of his daytime hours looking for jobs and interviewing. His resume; reflecting solid experience in IT, sales, marketing and manufacturing management; is online at linkedin.com. So far, the job hunt has not been fruitful.
“We have several companies that I have contacted, and they have contacted me back,” Daniel said. “I have even done a couple of phone interviews, but nothing solid has turned up yet. So, onward we push.”
Being homeless and unemployed made it impossible for the Hoffmans to find a place to live, and without a stable address, it has been harder for Daniel to find a job. Homelessness forms a vicious cycle, Baum said.
“We focused on finding stable housing and storage for their belongings,” Baum said. “Our new priority is finding work that would pay enough for them to be self-sufficient.”
Now living on Betty’s 6-acres in a 4-bedroom country home in a rural town outside Austin, there is plenty of room for the Hoffman’s large family and all their pets. The home also gives Buffie more room to continue homeschooling her older children. Rather than accept a handout, the Hoffman’s are working in exchange for their lodging, helping Betty organize, repair and maintain her home. And they have safe transportation to and from the home.
Things are beginning to look up for the family, but, like any parent, Buffie worries how the family’s experience has affected her children.
“For the most part, they haven’t seemed to mind it,” she said. “To them, it’s one big adventure.”
While not all the lessons of the last year have been lessons the Hoffmans wanted to teach their children, they are doing their best to put the experience in a positive light.
“They’ve learned about resilience and about the power of community – how people can work together,” Buffie said. “And it all just reinforces something they have always understood as fundamental – the importance of family.”

Immediate needs for the Hoffman family

Employment amounting to combined income of at least $60,000
Donations to cover Internet service at their temporary home
Laptop computer
Smart phone
Money for gas for the car and to cover Betty’s increased utility bills
Donations can be made to the Hoffman Relief Fund through homelesscoach.org.


  1. kathy clam says:

    food stamps and medicare aren’t welfare? What are they then?

  2. speechless says:

    I’m confused. Is this family receiving government benefits that total more than the net salary of a $60,000/year job? That’s insane. But you want me to contribute my money, earned at a job with a salary less than $60,000, so that they can continue to receive money from the government while not settling for a job that’s beneath them? Come on.

  3. Westlake Onion says:

    10 children and 10 pets? This article should appear in the Onion, not the Picayune.

    Except there’s nothing funny about this.

  4. A new standard says:

    As it most things in Westlake, a new upscale version of homlessness

  5. tom says:

    Food stamps and medicaid are indeed government subsidized programs but the point is that this family is doing their best to stay off such programs if possible. I can’t imagine any loving parent in these circumstances not accepting temporary food and medical assistance for their children (let’s get real, folks!) They have purposely not applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) which is a federally funded program administered at the state level that helps American families by providing benefits, both financial and otherwise, to help keep family units intact. Again, the Hoffmans would very likely qualify for TANF but are trying to avoid such “welfare” programs. In fact, they should be applauded for trying to do the right thing and stay focused on getting back to work! As for $60K minimum salary, a family of four is considered living in poverty if they make $20K or less per year. So, if you can do the math, a combined income of less than $60K for a family of 12 is living in poverty… It turns out that the unconditional love received from pets is a HUGE and valuable counterbalance to feelings of failure and the stigma associated with being homeless “societal outcasts” — the pets are helping to keep them all emotionally strong! Not to mention the lessons in caring for other living things (and members of their “extended family”) regardless of circumstance that the kids are learning in this time of trial. Lastly, I have personally have had the distinct pleasure of meeting and getting to know this family. Frankly, I am blown away by them all and can’t help but love them!

  6. On their way to TANF says:

    You know what? I’d love to have 10 children and 10 pets. But I know I can afford 1 child and 1 pet.

    The “circumstances” that this family is in were imposed by the parents who decided that 10 children and 10 pets is a good idea.

  7. Wow says:

    Thanks to all of you who have posted on this board for reminding us that if people in need are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, then they are all alone, indeed.

    Thank goodness we live in a country (at least until Romney wins) where there are safety nets in place. The people posting above me here have made their positions clear.

    And their position is “there but for the Grace of God go others, because there is no friggin’ way I’m going to help out.”

    Shame on you.

  8. wow? says:

    There is no shame in limiting the amount of children you bring into this world and absolutely no shame in limiting the number of pets you take on when you can’t feed your children without food stamps. Safety nets? How about limiting the number of children and pets so that your children are not forced to rely on the charity of others? The purpose of safety nets is not so that people can have 10 children and 10 pets. By the way, we are all “helping” through the provision of food stamps, medicaid, and a lot of other social services.

  9. Wow says:

    What a small minded post. No one said there was “shame in limiting the amount of children” but read the article: the couple didn’t have 10 kids overnight. They could “afford” the kids when they had them. You are assuming that somehow these people are irresponsible, when the article clearly is written to imply just the opposite.

    The family is down on its luck. The good times ended, and they are dealing with it. The safety nets you reference–bitingly and begrudgingly, by the way–are in place precisely for this event.

    My point (I posted number 7) is that if this family was forced to rely on the kindness of people like you, number 8, then they’d be up the creek with no paddle. My further point was that, without these safety nets, which are the primary target of the current GOP nominees, people like these would have to rely on people like you.

    I live out here in the ‘burbs, surrounded by people who look down their noses on people who are less fortunate, and enjoy the bubble of the nice house, the nice car, and family values that allow them to cast judgement on others. In other words, my exact perception of the people writing these hateful comments about people less fortunate than themselves.

    Which is why I voted for Barack Obama, by the way.

  10. Logically says:

    You are right that we are called on to help our neighbors in need. In fact I will be helping others in need this Christmas season. I would like to point out that while this family does seem to be trying to do the best they can in a bad situation they have also made some decisions that have negatively impacted their situation. The parents started having children at 18 and 19 years old. Since they have become homeless they have had 2 more children. Regardless of the wonderful love and bond shared between pets and owners it is simply not responsible for them to keep the animals.

  11. Experts in Homlessness says:

    Good to see there are homeless experts in Westlake. Being able to comment on how many pets, how many children, and who would qualify for what, shows the incredible expertise that exists in the community.

    For long time I was worried it only existed in regards to football coaches ( the team is winning) or school supt ( congrats to Nola on almost 10 years).

  12. mike says:

    I knew them when they lived in Wisconsin. I will love on them and all. but to live in a van at this moment and not let the kids come to a church where they can be loved on is wrong. I know people in my chuch would help take in a few kids for the night and go back to mom and dad the next day and, feed them but they will not seperate. How is that not right?

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