BY MARY CATHARINE MARTIN
THE DAILY IBERIAN
Published/Last Modified on Sunday, May 24, 2009 7:16 AM CDT
New Iberia native Brandt Russo has been kicked off the properties of more churches than most people probably attend in a lifetime.
He has been stepped over and avoided. He’s been arrested. He’s been asked to leave by federal agents — all while attempting to live “like Jesus calls me to live.”
Russo, 25, is voluntarily homeless.
|From "Foxes Have Holes"|
Brandt Russo is pictured on the bus he has converted to run on used vegetable oil. He travels the country, voluntarily homeless, to talk to people about his 'underground Christianity.' - Mary Catharine Martin / The Daily Iberian
Russo graduated from Assembly Christian School, attended Bible college, and became an ordained minister. He was living in a gated community and working two jobs in Texas a few years ago when he decided to buy a plane ticket to Portland, Ore., give up all his money, drive back to Texas and see what happened. The car he bought there broke down after only six hours on the road and he was welcomed into the home of a family in Idaho.
Encouraged by the hospitality of that family, Russo began a life of train-hopping, wandering, digging in trash bins for food, making friends, and inadvertently becoming “very successful at trying not to be successful.”
Russo has spoken at universities and churches, and has now participated in several documentaries. He’s become a figure in the “underground Christian” scene.
He started a T-shirt company (Can’t Ignore the Poor) he’s trying to register as a nonprofit and gives away most of the proceeds.
He drives a school bus powered with cooking oil, not for political or environmental reasons, he said, but rather because he can’t afford diesel — used cooking oil is free. Russo uses the bus, which has “Can’t Ignore the Poor” written on the side, to pick up homeless people and hitchhikers and give them shelter and food.
Recently, West Virginia PBS producer and independent filmmaker Bob Wilkinson traveled with Russo for two weeks, making a documentary with the working title of “Can’t Ignore the Poor,” a trailer of which can be seen from www.astraydogfilm.com. Wilkinson said the documentary is “a lot to do with Brandt and his choice to live the lifestyle he lives.”
As a person, Wilkinson said what stands out most about Russo is his authenticity.
“He’s real compassionate, and he’s passionate about his beliefs,” he said.
On his own terms
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