(WSVN) - A Pembroke Pines man and his family went above and beyond to help a total stranger. They opened up their homes — and their hearts — to get a homeless man back on his feet, and they discovered everyone has a story worth sharing. 7’s Craig Stevens has the special assignment report, “Second Chance.”
It all started with a glimpse of a homeless man living behind a gas station in Miami. Abe Tejada decided to help him.
Abe Tejada, helping homeless: “I befriended him, bought him lunch one day.”
Fifty-seven-year-old Klaus Hailfinger had set up camp there, sleeping on a bed of cardboard. Abe began taking him food.
Abe Tejada (cellphone video): “This is where he stays. This is about a block from my job. He’s eating dinner. I don’t want him to eat alone.”
Meal by meal, Abe got to know Klaus. He’d come to Miami years ago for hip surgery. Later, Klaus lost his job and found himself on the streets.
Abe Tejada (cellphone video): “How long have you been homeless, Klaus?”
Klaus Hailfinger (cellphone video): “Twelve, 15 years.”
Abe Tejada (cellphone video): “Uh, between 12 and 15 years he’s been homeless.”
Abe Tejada: “He wasn’t very open. He was kind of, kind of embarrassed. Like he wouldn’t look at me in the face.”
Abe and his family decided to raise some money to buy him things he needed to feel human again. They posted videos and pictures of Klaus on their social media site.
Abe Tejada: “We started the process, and he got a haircut. The barbershop wouldn’t even charge us, They said, ‘We see what you’re doing. It’s free.’ We got nails done, we got him new clothes, new shoes. After he was cleaned up, he was a different person.”
They even got him a hotel room for a few nights. Klaus was overwhelmed.
Klaus Hailfinger (cellphone video): “Hi, everybody! I had a beautiful day, thanks to all of you.”
Then Abe went a step further. He found Klaus’ daughters in Pennsylvania. They hadn’t heard from him in years and wanted him to come home. The Tejadas volunteered to drive him.
Abe Tejada (cellphone video): “We’re going to bring you back to your family!”
“Operation Klaus” had begun.
For 18 long hours, they drove, passing the time by listening to music and taking turns at the wheel.
Alejandra Tejada, helping homeless: “My husband drives for hours and switch, switch and switch.”
The next day, they crossed the Pennsylvania line — and after 15 years apart, Klaus and his family were reunited.
Abe Tejada: “At first, there wasn’t too much of a connection. And then we went inside, we started talking, then the albums came out and then everything changed.”
The photos told the story of a man they didn’t recognize. Klaus had been a model in Munich, Germany in the 1980s.
They saw him as a young husband and father. Pictures and memories, a world away from the grizzled homeless man living behind the gas station.
Abe Tejada: “We got to see the whole history. It was, like, overwhelming, like, man.”
The Tejadas say they try to perform at least one act of kindness every week. What they didn’t expect was that this one would be life-changing for both families.
Alejandra Tejada: “I feel good, I feel happy.”
Abe Tejada: “I’m glad I got to share with my kids and my family, and I got to have them experience what you can do when you go a little bit out of your comfort zone and help somebody out.”
He says it’s all about living for something bigger than yourself and giving someone in need a second chance.
Klaus is living with his daughters now.
And the Tejadas, meanwhile, have a new project. They’re working with another homeless person, and you can follow their progress by going to the link below.
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