Prized Possessions

Homeless in Houston share their most important objects.

Rah-Rool, said Howell, carried a badge and gun as a federal agent for 90 years. He built One Shell Plaza and just about every house in The Woodlands. He was, or is (Howell said Rah-Rool's coffin contained not a corpse but "a rubber man") also a heavy-equipment magnate:

"I had a whole company stolen from me that Rah-Rool built," Howell said. "Out there on Katy Freeway, it was called Incorporated Howell's — my name — Equipment. They built red backhoes — they called them the 'Hoes of Hose.' Because he's been a builder for so many years, Rah-Rool designed his own backhoe. And he had that company out there and when he left, they buried a rubber man. He faked his death. He's a billionaire-billionaire, Rah-Rool is, and he left me everything he owns."

Rah-Rool constantly tempted Howell with great riches: From 1974 to 2004, he presented Howell with a brand-new Harley Davidson every year, not to mention Corvettes and other cars. "It's all in a house he built in The Woodlands somewhere," said Howell. "A mansion." He's fine with leaving all that stuff out there, as Howell has little interest in wealth himself, he explained.

Jerry Howell
Daniel Kramer
Jerry Howell
John Cates
Daniel Kramer
John Cates

John Cates
U.S. Army beret

John Cates told us that "fighting for the United States Constitution" was his favorite thing to do, and symbolic of that struggle was the black Army surplus beret he wore over his watery eyes and flushed and blood-flecked face. Though Cates never served, his dad had been a military man. Cates said that after he fought the Japanese, the French offered the elder Cates the chance to keep on fighting in Vietnam, but he chose to come home instead.

Cates has long loved to sport vintage military regalia. He did so on what was very likely one of the worst days of his life. He told us some of the details, and old newspaper articles furnished more. Back in January of 1989, he was very upset about getting fired from his job at a wrecker company on Broadway down by Hobby Airport. So Cates, then 24 years old, decided to do something about it. He strapped on a bulletproof vest and buckled on a Wehrmacht blitzkrieg helmet and headed to the dispatcher's office. In his hand, he clutched a .38 revolver, and in his soul, a grievance was gnawing, specifically: He didn't think it fair that he had been fired and his supervisor had not. Witnesses called police after they said he was menacing his former co-workers and talking "strangely."

After the police arrived, Cates fought off a cop who tried to cuff him and managed to get in his car and flee. A short, wild Gulf Freeway car chase ensued — several police cars were after him, along with two tow trucks which had joined in the pursuit for reasons of their own. Eventually, the cops and wreckers forced Cates's car to the shoulder of the Gulf Freeway. Cates got out with his hands up, but then changed his mind and went for his pistol.

He shot one of the wrecker drivers in the side. Though police fired at Cates 24 times, he was hit only once, luckily for him, in the leg. (The wrecker driver also survived his wound.) And yet Cates was still not done: he hopped in the wrecker belonging to the guy he had just shot and continued heading toward his boyhood home — a modest ranch house off Edgebrook.

Cates, whose car was allegedly found to be littered with Nazi propaganda, was finally apprehended and charged with attempted murder. He was later acquitted by reason of insanity. Cates told us he wound up doing two years in mental hospitals in Vernon and Rusk.

Today, Cates's kampf appears to be kaput, as his choice of headgear would seem to indicate he is now on the American side of World War II. Cates said he found his beret through "the AT&T Yellow Pages." He lived with his parents until he was 40; they died in 1999. Awhile back, his wife kicked him out of their house, and here he was, on a bench near Main Street Square.

Really Real
Gideon's New Testament

We found Really Real in a vacant lot between a crumbling warehouse and the Eastex Freeway, not far from Minute Maid Park. Here is how he said his street name came about: "'Cause I keep it 100."

In his shades, ball-cap and black windbreaker decorated with a pattern of interlocking images of Kermit the Frog, he had as much style as anyone we saw out in the streets. He could also run some serious hustlin' game: He said he would tell us a great story if we paid him cash up front. Since he was the first guy we talked to, I agreed, and then after insisting on no less than $10, he told me that a Gideon's New Testament he salvaged from the trash was his favorite thing. I asked if he had a favorite verse, something that guided him through the long, cold nights out here in Houston's spooky, derelict Warehouse District. "Uhh, hmmmm, 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,'" he said. He added that God had brought him into the world for a reason. "But I haven't found that reason yet," he said. "This isn't the reason."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Michael Belmares
Michael Belmares

John CatesU.S. Army beret

This man has harassed KPFT 90.1 repeatedly in the past. I find it strangely unsettling that he snake his way into the columns of this paper.

Sralph
Sralph

Hi: Chandler is a gentleman in our neighborhood. He is a nice guy but he has issues. After your story, he saw that he was in your paper and he did not remember talking to you at all. Poor Chandler was so upset Saturday night that he paced in front of my business all night trying to figure out what had happened to him and why his picture was in the Houston Press. We tried to help explain, but to no avail. I know you meant no harm in writing this article, but I felt it iportant to pass this sad situation on to you.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Aw man, that's too bad. I'll try to go up there and see if he remembers me.

Sralph
Sralph

John, thanks. I have seen him the last day or so and he appears better. Perhaps his episode has passed over him. It was just sad to see him Sat night so distressed and really no way to help him.

Pat Hartman
Pat Hartman

It's a much-needed reminder that these are real people we're dealing with, not extras from Central Casting. Just as interview subjects tend to go off on tangents, a writer could go off on a large number of tangents from the information presented here. For instance, when a trained electrician with 18 years experience can't find work, something is seriously amiss.

It's obvious that some folks on the streets are seriously out of touch with reality. Even if housing can be found or created for them, that is not quite enough. They need structure, and someone on the premises to monitor them and look out for their neighbors, too. Mainstreaming the mentally ill is a nice ideal, but society needs to take responsibility somehow for people who can't be responsible for themselves. And this needs to be done without trampling on their rights, or the rights of anyone else. Just this morning a friend wrote, "My experiences in senior low-income housing have been so horrific as to leave me actually contemplating storing my things and sleeping at a shelter. I have never felt less safe in all of my life and to my amazement I fear the women here every bit as much as the men. My apartment itself is a delight, but what lies outside my front door is the stuff of nightmares… The reason for my fear is 100% based on the high ratio of mentally ill inmates...I mean tenants!"

Thanks for a very illuminating look at some lives.

Pat HartmanNews Editor, House the Homeless

Zan
Zan

I forgot to add that my favorite story was that of Mr. Temple, the gentleman who used a good portion of his disability check to help his daughter pay for her cap and gown. I can see the pride in his eyes for her, and yes, Mr. Temple, I think that she is proud of you, too. You did a lot more for her with that $400 than most men in better situations do for their children. I'd be proud of you if you were my dad.

Zan
Zan

Thank you for this. Stories like these remind me that our material possession don't mean crap and it is true that you don't necessarily have to be an alcoholic or a drug addict to be homeless; homeless people come from all walks of life. Lord knows that a lot of us are one paycheck away from being where they are. Not one of these people complained about anything, even though they had the platform to do so. Lord forgive me when I whine.

Creg
Creg

Really Real, if that is your real name.... Psalm 23 is not in your Gideon's New Testament.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

@Ash: My mom died in the streets of Nashville in 1998. Like you, I know all too well that the homeless can come from anywhere, even your own home.

ash
ash

my uncle died a homeless man. before that he was a husband, father and my dad by default (after my parents divorced). he would take us camping and sit outside with us and watch us play. the girls were never allowed to wimp out of anything the boys were capable of and he made us try weird foods and contributed to my love of classic rock. he was an extraordinary man. i never turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to a homeless person, they're people too...

Michelle O
Michelle O

@Anon, your feelings called and said you're retarded.

TJ
TJ

Great story!

antiM
antiM

thanks for doing this story!

Christine
Christine

What a great story! Thanks for opening a window for us to see into their lives.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Please don't use the term "deaf-mute" to describe someone who is deaf or hard-of -hearing. Most deaf people are not mute, they are quite capable of making sounds. This term rates with other ignorant descriptive terms such as "Colored" or "Jewess" or "Spic". Thank you so much.

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Anonymous...The smiling lady in this article was a deaf mute. She self identified as a deaf person who choose not to speak with her voice.

Attempts at being political correct almost always results in harm...which is itself ignorant.::GP

Anonymous
Anonymous

Gary, if she CHOSE not to speak with her voice she is not mute. It isn't about being PC so much as it is in being just plain correct. Mute means unable to speak or make sounds. Mute people do not choose to be mute. And not to put too fine a point on this, would you choose to call people colored? Or use any other "politically incorrect" term? I doubt it. You could at least show the Deaf community the same respect. And if you don't know Sign Language, or could she "self identify" to you? And, again honing the point a bit too fine for someone like you, if you had any experience in the Deaf community you would know its an offensive term, as well as an inaccurate one.

Being obtuse usually results in harm, which is in itself ignorant. And willful ignorance in light of available evidence to the contrary is the worst of all. Or is the best defense a good offense? In that case, points to you. Many many points.

MT

 
Houston Concert Tickets
Loading...