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

Climbing off the Streets, Part 8: Good News and Growth
Dale Malone and his friend Leroy Conner under a freeway bridge in Sharpstown. This series chronicles the quest of both men to make it off the streets.

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 the freeway bridge.

I crossed the frontage road and sat down next to him. He sat up slowly and started spilling his woes. “The streets ain’t never gonna let me go.”

His depression was getting to him. After another homeless man stole Dale’s driver’s license, Dale and I had been trying to get a replacement hard copy since January 2. Here it was, April 10, and he was still waiting.

Without a photo ID, it would be near-impossible to get a job, open a bank account, or get housing. And that wasn’t the only thing getting him down. He said METRO bus drivers had started barreling past him at bus stops without picking him up—even though he was waving his METRO fare card.

It didn’t just frustrate him because it slowed his travel. It was the feeling of being an outcast—rejected by society.

After listening to him for five minutes or so, I patted my pocket. “Guess what came in the mail yesterday?”

His face brightened. “No way.”

I pulled out his new driver’s license. The reflective plastic flashed.

His mood did a 180 as he took the miniature image of his smiling self from my hand. After he had trouble receiving his driver’s license in the mail, DPS had agreed to re-mail it, but to my address this time. This time, we hadn’t needed to wait long.

Now he could open a bank account and save money—another step toward getting off the streets.

“How much money do you have?” I asked.

“Five dollars,” he said. “And I’m hungry.”

He would need thirty dollars to open a checking account and savings account, and it was already late afternoon.

“Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll stop by tomorrow morning. If you have thirty dollars, I’ll go to the bank with you.”

He worried his driver’s license would get lost or stolen again, so he wanted me to keep it temporarily. The next morning, on my way to a TIRZ #20 meeting, I stopped by.

“How much do you have?”

“Fifteen dollars.”

I told him I’d be back after the meeting. If he had $30 by then, we could still go to the bank that day. He headed back out to the cars with his Styrofoam cup.

Two hours later, Dale had about $35, mostly in quarters.

We hopped in my car and headed to the bank. After a twenty-plus-minute wait, the manager called us into a back room, where he handed her his license and several stacks of quarters. She said she didn’t have to count coin deposits very often anymore.

About thirty minutes later, Dale had a bank account. Something that was impossible without a photo ID took less than an hour with one.

Dale still needs to save enough money for housing and find a place that will take him. But he's much closer to getting off the streets than before.

He told me to hang on to his driver’s license temporarily again. But another day, when I stopped by again, he asked me to give it to him so he could go to the SSI office the next day to get his disability check sorted out.

I offered to go with him, but he said, “I need to learn to be independent.”

I gave him the license.