Climbing off the Streets: How Two Sharpstown Men Are Trying to Escape Homelessness

Climbing off the Streets: How Two Sharpstown Men Are Trying to Escape Homelessness
Dale Malone, left, and Leroy Conner, right, under a Sharpstown freeway bridge

Few would guess that one of the biggest barriers to getting off the streets is often a little plastic card—or, rather, the lack of one.

Since December 2023, I've been following Dale Malone, 59, and Leroy Conner, 64, on their quest to move out from under a Sharpstown freeway bridge and into housing. But neither one had a state-issued photo ID.

In post-911 society, that's a homelessness sentence. IDs are required to get an apartment, a job, a bank account, or government benefits. And trying to get an ID without an ID can be a vicious Catch-22.

But many homeless people have lost their driver's license, Texas ID, birth certificate, social security card, and more.

In this series, Dale and Leroy try to overcome that obstacle—and others. I've collected all of the articles so far below, and I'll add more in the future.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 1: What an ID Really Means

Dale and Leroy try to go to the DPS to get IDs. Here's why it matters.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 1: What an ID Really Means
To American teenagers, a driver’s license is the gateway to independence, quick transportation, and...insurance bills. But for America’s homeless population, a driver’s license can mean the difference between getting housing or being stuck on the streets. But most homeless Houstonians I know—and I’ve talked

Climbing off the Streets, Part 2: Catch-22?

I take a break from Dale and Leroy's story to visit Operation ID, a branch of Main Street Ministries devoted to helping homeless people, trafficking victims, and others get photo IDs.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 2: Catch-22?
Last time, I said that it was “difficult” for a homeless person to get housing or a job without a photo ID. That was an understatement. It’s more like a Catch-22. Or, as Barbara Allen—executive director of Houston nonprofit Main Street Ministries—says a homeless man told her,

Climbing off the Streets, Part 3: Acceptance and Rejection

For Dale and Leroy, making it to their DPS appointment is only the first hurdle of many. But the visit goes well—for one of them.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 3: Acceptance and Rejection
Running late, I pull up to a Sharpstown tattoo shop at 11:40 AM on the first Tuesday of 2024. Dale Malone and Leroy Conner—who both slept under the nearby freeway bridge for months until they changed locations a week or so ago—are waiting for me. Fortunately, they’

Climbing off the Streets, Part 4: How Hard Can It Be to Get an ID?

More hurdles.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 4: How Hard Can It Be to Get an ID?
“I’m never gonna get a license. I knew it.” Dale Malone bends forward in the plastic chair, hands flat on the edge of the DPS desk. The black-haired woman behind it has just told him that management wouldn’t accept his METRO disability ID card as proof of identity, even

Climbing off the Streets, Part 5: One Step Closer

More hurdles—and some good news.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 5: One Step Closer
“I was here earlier and I needed one more document to get my stuff done,” says Dale Malone, 58, to a male employee inside the front door of the Rosenberg DPS. Dale is trying to get a replacement copy of his driver’s license—his gateway to society—after his old

Climbing off the Streets, Part 6: The Waiting Game

What virtue is required most for getting off the streets? It may be patience.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 6: The Waiting Game
On the afternoon of Sunday, February 11, Dale Malone and I pull up to the Gulfton convenience store where Leroy Conner now works as a security guard. The friends haven’t seen each other since a chance meeting at the Social Security office a week and a half earlier. But

Climbing off the Streets, Part 7: Re-entering Society Is a Marathon with Hurdles

Patience gets stretched even thinner.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 7: Re-entering Society Is a Marathon with Hurdles
Dale Malone has been waiting for the hard copy of his driver’s license for nearly three months. It’s one of the many obstacles he must clear in his journey to get off the streets, which is less of a sprint and more of a marathon with hurdles. But

Climbing off the Streets, Part 8: Good News and Growth

Dale gets a ticket to independence. But the story isn't over yet.

Climbing off the Streets, Part 8: Good News and Growth
Dale Malone walked across the Southwest Freeway frontage road, holding a white Styrofoam cup out to the cars waiting at the stoplight. Before the light turned green, he trudged back to the safety of the curb, sank to his knees, and lay on his back on the concrete walkway under