Houston's Working Class Gets Bumped by the Crashing Economy: Hardcore Homeless

Recycling in and out of shelters and programs, they always seem to land back on the streets.

Then it is Thursday night, February 26, and Steve is drinking a Coors Light at the Next Door in Montrose. He's been off his pills for about a month, but seems focused and upbeat. The check comes tomorrow. Steve has the Greyhound schedule in his pocket, along with a shopping list of things he and Chris will need for the trip. He calls his brother and arranges to get his mail before he leaves. He keeps the send-off to a single beer, because he needs to get to bed on time. He says good-bye and disappears down the street.

Twelve days later, Steve is staring out from the wrong side of the murky glass in the visitation room at the Harris County Jail. He didn't go right to bed after the beer. Instead he drank a pint of Mad Dog 20/20, then went in front of City Hall with some friends to smoke a joint. Steve says he didn't know one of the guys in the group, and that the two got into an argument. He says the guy started shoving him, then pulled a knife. Steve carries a small, sharp flip blade with a blue handle. He stabbed the guy several times and took off down the street.

The police took his bloodstained clothes for evidence, even his sneakers, and Steve kicks his foot up onto the counter to show an orange sock and beige prison sandal. Steve is optimistic that his lawyer can prove self-defense — if he can find the witnesses, who probably gave fake names and phone numbers to the police because they're all homeless. He puts his mouth to the metal microphone embedded in the glass.

Steve Shreve and his crew check a Dumpster for their stuff, which is missing from their spot near the highway, but most of it is gone. They lost food, clothes and medication.
Mike Giglio
Steve Shreve and his crew check a Dumpster for their stuff, which is missing from their spot near the highway, but most of it is gone. They lost food, clothes and medication.
Some people, like Kaos, just can't or won't play by the rules of the shelter programs designed to get them off the street.
Daniel Kramer
Some people, like Kaos, just can't or won't play by the rules of the shelter programs designed to get them off the street.

"If not, I'm spending a long mother-fucking time in here," he says. "All I want to do is get out of fucking Texas and back to Louisiana. So I can get my life together."

Then Steve flashes two fingers across his chest and shuffles out of the room. In his inbox there is an unread message from Jim:

"I went to the bus station [Fri] nite and all of the buses came until 11 pm. I went to sleep. Please hurry and let me hear from you. I assumed either the money did not come in the mail or you went to jail."

mike.giglio@houstonpress.com

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