Prized Possessions

Homeless in Houston share their most important objects.

The laptop had been a gift from another homeless guy, he said. Having it enabled him to avoid all the lines for computer time at the public library, but he wishes the free city WiFi would work a little better: Pages took forever to load when he tried to show us his favorite sites and online global harem.

Like a snowbird sans RV, Parker comes to Houston every winter — each year, he comes back to the same spot under a bridge near Sam Houston Park, and every year, the other homeless recognize his claim. Parker summers in the northwest — places like Montana and rural Washington state, where he picks up ranch work. In a previous life he had been a family man, and he has adult kids. He recently found out that he was a grandfather via social networking sites. He hasn't contacted them, as he fears what they would think of his homelessness.

Sister Jay
Bible (missing)

Kathy
Daniel Kramer
Kathy
John Parker
Daniel Kramer
John Parker
Sister Jay
Daniel Kramer
Sister Jay

She told us to call her Sister Jay.

We found her pushing an overloaded shopping cart near the pink-and-lavender Navigation underpass/gateway to the barrio. Near her feet I found an empty bottle of codeine pills. "Hey, y'all wanna Diet Coke?" she asked as we approached. "I found these out behind Lucky's Pub. They're expired but I am sure they're fine. They let me recycle back there, but not the men. The men are too messy." She didn't ask for payment — it was her gift to us.

Her love of God was her prized possession. It wasn't always so, she said. "When I fought Satan off, it felt like there was a two-ton brick on my arm when I tried to raise my hand to accept Jesus."

Symbolic of that love is, or was, her favorite material object. A Bible, and not just any Bible, but, as she elaborated, a "New American Standard edition, published in Wheaton, Illinois, in either 1968 or 1972." She said her copy was stolen down around Freeport by a Captain Roger Thorpe of the Salvation Army.

"That was the best-written Bible ever," she said.

"And it controls part of the White House," she added casually.

And then she was off. She claimed to have written something called "The Ultimate Power Case," a staggering legal treatise containing 269 laws that have since been enacted from coast to coast. She further claimed to have penned every bicycle law and to be an expert in "non-contestable death penalty cases." Beyond her legal skills, she said she had devised a devastating military tactic capable of winning enormous battles with minimal loss of life.

As suddenly as she slipped off on these tangents, she came back to Earth. She said that "the free food people" should pass out cans of Slim-Fast and make the coffee with good water. "Some hot chocolate would be nice too," she said. (Good ideas all.)

And she wished more people would shop at La Familia Meat Market on the corner of Canal and St. Charles, because the people there were very kind and the food was good.

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
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

 
Loading...