Cover Story: Prized Possessions

Video by Daniel Kramer and Monica Fuentes

In this week's feature on the homeless and their prized possessions, we speculated that some, though certainly not all or even most of them, might subscribe to Kris Kristofferson's dictum: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." How else to explain their generosity?

One beneficiary of that largesse is Cheryl Pierce, a co-manager and resident of Notsuoh, downtown's weirdest nightspot. We were standing in front of Notsuoh when she came strolling down Main, her leashed dog trotting alongside with a biscuit in his mouth.

"I've gotten more Christmas gifts from the homeless this year than anybody else," she told us, standing in the covered doorway of the fabled 110-year-old building she helps Jim Pirtle run as an artsy dive bar. (Meanwhile, still clutching the uneaten biscuit, her dog eagerly scratched at the door leading to their upstairs apartment, her hazel eyes imploring Pierce to let her in. "She wants to run up there and bury it somewhere," Pierce explained.)

Most nights, a few homeless people congregate at the old tables and chairs scattered around the tomato-red Houston Post rack in Notsuoh's doorway, and one such person, a woman Pierce knows as Mary, showered her with gifts.

Among them were a bottle of Lancôme toner with cotton balls for application. "They get really great beauty products," Pierce says, showing us the bottle. Mary also shared her food, including oranges and a vegetable linguine MRE, which Pierce heated up but could not bring herself to eat. (Or feed to her dog, for that matter. Maybe she feared the pooch would try to bury that hot mess somewhere too.) Mary also gave Pierce a pink hooded sweatshirt, because, as Pierce explains, "She doesn't do pink."

Pierce says all of this stuff is new. It's a point of pride with them, she says. "They stress how things are new," she says. "They like to show you the tags."

On the other hand, they tend to hold on to the older things they have, or at least that was how it seemed from the people we talked to in this week's cover story.

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