Along with his wife, Tonya Gleason, Houstonian homeless advocate Tyler Gleason was arrested yesterday and charged with child endangerment.
Harris County Sheriff's deputies say that the couple left their five-month-old son in a car-seat in the median of FM 1960 near Kuykendahl while they solicited funds from motorists, ostensibly for an ambitious homeless shelter they hope to build.
When a deputy arrived a little after 7 p.m., the temperature was still 96 degrees. An HCSO spokesman told KHOU that the infant's clothing was soaked through with sweat and he had a body temperature of more than 101 degrees. The child, described as "lethargic" and "in distress," was whisked to an air-conditioned patrol car to await paramedics. While the child did not need a hospital trip, Child Protective Services took custody, and his parents were charged with child endangerment, a third-degree felony.
Gleason, 36, apparently was attempting to raise funds for Nation of Hope, an East End homeless-run shelter whose guiding principles are taken from the life cycle of butterflies. (Residents would progress from "eggs" through "chrysalis" and "caterpillar" phases before fluttering away.)
In epic detail on his personal Facebook page, and with the same messianic zeal you see in his mugshot, Gleason uncorks a manifesto spelling out how he came to have this dream, how his childhood and early adulthood in a cult, his disastrous military career and various other bad decisions led him to homelessness in the streets of Houston by 2011 and now this big idea.
Which, apparently, he is ruthlessly attempting to fund by posting up a baby in the middle of an exhaust-choked highway on one of the hottest days in Houston history...
"I do my best to keep it extremely real, and I'm very open about my life," he begins. "I've done only a few things that I regret. I've paid my debt to society, and I stay open about my experiences because I think it's the only way to end a lot of the discrimination in our world."
He goes on to say that "the vast majority of folks I meet like me. If you've got discriminating enough tastes to be a select member of the tiny group who find me unpalatable, keep the following in mind. It took me many glasses of Australian Shiraz before I could see what all the fuss was about. However, it is my current favorite, as I have now learned to appreciate it's subtler notes."
Next he describes his upstate New York hometown as a poverty-stricken shithole where the inhabitants did little besides hunt, fish, smoke (cigs and weed), drink and watch TV. Then, Gleason says, right after his birth, his mom joined a cult that was into "child abuse, male privilege, brainwashing, obsessive Bible study, their own lingo among insiders, very controlling leaders, discouraging relationships with 'unbelievers,' and going door to door 'witnessing' to increase membership."
After resisting for years, Gleason says he finally submitted to this life, only to get molested by a male babysitter at age seven.
"It's relevant in telling you about me, because combined with the cult, I developed a growing sense that I wasn't 'normal,'" Gleason writes. "Later, I had a secret boyfriend when I was 12 and I was in such denial over it that I never said he was my boyfriend until I was 35."
On to his academic career...He was an underachiever. School was a drag and of no value to the real world, where he worked alongside his dad as a contractor. He graduated from high school but instead of going to college, he headed off on a mission trip for his "cult." Wandering years followed...He evangelized in Des Moines, Spanish Harlem, Omaha and Atlanta, while working part-time and handing over a quarter of his earnings to the "cult."
At 23 he joined the Marines. He believes now it was a subconscious rebellion against the "cult," which kicked him out for not consulting them about that decision first. Since he had no friends outside the cult, and they no longer wanted him around, he says he was friendless. With the marines he went to Hawaii, where he got married. For a time, he tried to interest his bride in the cult, even though he was on their official shit-list, but he says that interest evaporated when it came to light that the leader was diddling the true believers.
"Finally, I started to question everything they had taught me, truth came clearly into view, life started making sense. I became an excellent student now that I was free to learn about whatever I liked, I still am," he writes, and in the next paragraph, has this to say:
I wasn't perfect, and I ended up being discharged from the Marines as a result of being prosecuted and convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I made a dumb decision while trying to deal with a difficult situation, and I spent a total of 3 1/2 months in the brig.
After that vague admission of dark doings, he's back to preaching..."I've been in jails a couple other times in life for stupid stuff. But I've noticed that most of the folks in our jails are there as a result of the drug war and petty stuff like 'failure to identify' or 'public intoxication.' I've noticed that most of the people in jail are ethnic minorities and I think our justice system furthers racist agendas, and that no prison should ever profit anyone."
Well, Amen to some of that, Brother Gleason, but you said you were all about keeping it real. Why did the marines tell you to go pound sand?
Gleason headed across the world with his wealthy wife, who he says was from the upper crust. They flitted about in private jets and took long road trips. Eventually they got into real estate, but the market crashed, and the wife exits the picture with no explanation.
For his part, Gleason pops up in Houston in 2008. Here he worked for Sears as a sales manager and claims to have made almost $100,000 in 2009, and then he yada-yadas some more trouble.
"I made close to six-figures in 2009, some bad decisions in 2010 and by 2011... I checked into a homeless shelter, and lived there for 8 months."
At Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Gleason says that he was so touched by all the help he received that he eventually came to realize that he "owed any debt that I tried to repay to society as a whole....NATION of HOPE is my attempt to repay the debt that I owe to those who cared enough to be certain that I had the help I needed when I needed it. Will you help me?"
And elsewhere on his page, he has this to say about his big idea:
I've been noticing a rise in the number of people who think I've got a good idea and a decline in the number that think I've gone insane. I rank high in most people who know me's list of unconventional people, but I spent a bunch of time in counseling learning to be ok with who I really am... and life got stranger, more peaceful, and more satisfying after that.
We're thinking that if yesterday's allegations are proven true, the balance of people who think he has a good idea versus those who think he's gone insane will shift a bit back in the other direction.
Court records state that Gleason is currently homeless. As of this writing, he still had not made his $2,000 bond. Tonya Gleason is currently free on the same bond.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
View Larger Map
(The intersection where the baby was allegedly left in the median.)