homeless

Toney Butler

Toney Butler loiters outside the center for the visual arts in Denton waiting to go to St. Andrews for lunch where he goes every day. He’s a private person and keeps to himself

“No not really. I had a few friends here but not lately, you know?” Butler laughs, “Kind of burned those bridges.”

Butler, from Lewisville, is staying at the Denton homeless shelter right now and has for the past year and a half. He’s not sure what caused him to be homeless. He says he is looking for work but hasn’t thought about what he wants to do and will go to the Denton Public Library to “do different research and stuff on the library computers.”

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Denton, Fort Worth, Homeless, Teacher, Nanny, Travel, Hitchhiking, Artist

Transcription of an Interview: Allison Lamb

Allison gave a fantastic interview at Jupiter House in Denton and basically talked straight through without my having to ask many questions. After transcribing the recording, I omitted my questions and extra details that interrupted flow and comprehension. 

I’m just kind of thinking and listening to a book called Hyperion. It’s a science fiction book about, it’s hard to say, it has a lot of different stories in it. It’s just like a setup and character development for the next book really. I like science fiction a lot. It’s my primary genre and utopian novels. I really liked Spin and Brave New World.

I used to be a student but didn’t graduate. I am a nanny for a family, so I clean their house and watch their kid and I am a substitute teacher.

First, I was studying art and got a bad taste in my mouth at UNT because it’s competitive and I’m not competitive and then I moved to TWU for nutrition and dietetics. Then, I had like a bunch of crap happen in a semester and I had to put school on the back burner and my grades fell. I have to have As or nothing. I had Ds. I was like, I’m not ready for this and quit for a while but I’ll probably go back some day.

I still do art and always will. I really like throwing ceramics, its really fun and I like watercolor painting. I like making stuff for people. I have a stockpile of art supplies already because I would ask my family for them at Christmas, like give me some paint. And they’d be like here, have some paint and shut up already. Anything else, my nanny job can kind of pay for.

But yeah, my jobs do well. I live below my means. I don’t have a car or anything. I share a one-bedroom house with my roommate so rent is really not high.

I don’t know what I’d go back to school for, but if I decided to go back to school for money, I’d probably go back to school for a STEM field. You get good scholarships in STEM fields. If I decided to go back to school for something I love, it would probably be for ceramics. I would probably be like a teacher. Sometimes I like substitute teaching. Sometimes it’s really stressful because the kids are bratty or whatever.

But sometimes it’s really rewarding too.

One day, I was substituting for a special education class and I was trying to teach this 8-year-old how to subtract. I sat there with him and explained it to him and explained it to him and he got it and I was like I was able to teach that kid how to subtract and it was a really awesome moment for me. The little girl I nanny for is great, so sweet. I’ve nannied for other kids before that weren’t but they had some behavioral problems that weren’t their fault really. It wasn’t like autism, but close. This girl, she’s awesome like she paints with me and is really chill and awesome.

I travel every summer. Well, I started it last summer, but I went hitchhiking from here to northern California. When I was in New Mexico, I was sitting on a porch, I was like couch surfing and the people I met were really cool and we were in Ruidoso at night, sitting on a porch, playing music, and this bear walks down the street. It jumps into a dumpster at the end of the block and is like 30 feet from us rummaging through the garbage.

He looks up at us and then goes back to rummaging and it was really cool because I could tell it didn’t cross anybody’s mind to call animal control because the bear was like doing his own thing. Ruidoso is really encroaching upon the animals, so leave the animals be and they won’t mess with you unless you mess with them.

It was also really cool because it was the first time I saw a bear in real life. I wasn’t scared.

Well, I was at first because I had my back to it and the woman who was sitting next to me saw it and was like bear! So I turned around and saw that it was just minding it’s own business. I went from loh god we’re going to get mauled, to wow this is beautiful.

I think I’m afraid of dying and not getting to know the secrets of the universe after I die. I hope that after I die, no matter how it happens, I’m given the gift of knowledge of how the universe works and why, like the meaning. But if I didn’t get that I’d be really disappointed.

My life goal is to be happy and look back on my life and be like, that wasn’t a waste of time. Don’t let societal constructions of norm hinder you from being free.

I was homeless last year for six months. At one point, I broke up with my boyfriend of like three years and I loved and I got really depressed and I moved in with this guy.

He was older.

He was like this ex-‘Nam vet freaking crazy psycho posttraumatic stress disorder like really bad and I had a job at Ace hardware down by Kroger and I hated it. I was like abusing myself because I missed my boyfriend and was just really hating my life and was like I really need to get away from this guy.

He was like trying to getting me to marry him and stuff and treating me like getting all mad and possessive if I didn’t come home after work. I was like dude, I’m 20 years old, you need to back off you old man. But he like proposed it like you can live with me you don’t need to pay rent, no big deal, I like you. I thought it would be okay but it turned really creepy really fast and I tried to move out and quit my job and was thinking I had another job lined up but that didn’t work so I didn’t have a job and had some money saved up.

I met a guy right over there, where the last little building before crossing the street, and he was playing guitar. I had my drum out because there is a drum circle that goes on over there on Saturday nights and they had closed up early and I heard him playing and I came over there and was playing with him and he was like travelling. He’s from like a place in south Texas and was travelling, and he didn’t have any money. He got his money from playing music and I was totally taken aback from that.

I was like, this is awesome. I’m going to do this.

Plus, I already didn’t have a job. I wanted to get away from my roommate, so that’s what I did.

I was like, fuck all of y’all, I’m done and just hung out with him. Me and him and a saxophone player we met started a little band and we played every single night on Fry Street and made like $70 a night and it was so much fun. It was so awesome. Then I was like, I really want to travel. I need to get out of Denton for a while since I lived here since I was 12.

That’s when I decided I wanted to go travelling and I met another guy who seemed like a pretty good travel companion and we went and just started hitchhiking. I went from Denton to Fort Worth to Roswell, New Mexico. We got a ride from Fort Worth to Roswell and stayed in Roswell for a while and it got depressing.

Then we hitchhiked west to Ruidoso, which is an awesome town. It was like probably June of last year and then we bought a train ticket from Albuquerque to LA. We were in Albuquerque for just a few days and went to LA for a few days.

I’ve always wanted to go to Brazil, to like Carnaval. It just seems so awesome to me. We had to spend the night at a train station in LA one night. That was a nightmare but I met this girl who gave me a Brazilian cigarette. She was like, I’m from Brazil and just decided that I wanted to explore California one day and saved up my money to go. I was like, hey that’s what I’m doing. She was like, well cool, if you ever want to come to Brazil, here’s my number. Just call me and you can stay with me. So Portuguese is on my list of languages to learn.

It’s really hard to be homeless in LA because they were like you can’t sleep on the beach you have to sleep on the sidewalk or buy a hotel. We were there during the tourist season and didn’t think about that when we got there so there were no hotels and I didn’t really want to sleep on the sidewalk so we ended up dropping $200 on a hotel room for a night. It was a nice hotel but I was like, I can’t do this.

So then we caught a bus to San Francisco and went north with some people from San Francisco into the Redwoods and camped in the Redwoods for a while. That was really, really awesome.

Then we went back to the LA area to long beach because there was a guy form couch surfing. He seemed really, really cool. So we went back there to hang with him for a few days and by then I was really homesick and ready to get back.

We went to Oklahoma because I have some family there, lived with my dad for a month, and worked where my dad works. It’s like a juice packing factory called Whitlock and the pay pretty well, you can get tons of overtime. I made enough money to move back to Denton and establish myself again.

So then this summer, the guy I met in Ruidoso, his name is Mustang Jack, we’re going to go to Europe together to backpack and do the homeless thing over there for a while. It’s more accepted over there I think to go walking and backpacking and they have a better bus system. I’m also trying to learn German, a little bit of French, just some common languages. I feel like if I can just learn a little bit, I’ll be more accepted.

I don’t really like hitchhiking because I hate asking people for stuff and I don’t really like that about playing music on the street because I don’t like bumming money. I’m not the kind of person that will hold up a sign on the side of the street that’s like, give me money. Though sometimes I got so hungry I felt like that’s what I just had to do.

Which Wich, CSR, Sandwich, Donations, Philanthropy, Christian, Dallas, Downtown Dallas, Customer Service

Rachel Ford

Rachel Ford, wearing her branded Which Wich jacket, walks down Main Street across from headquarters looking for a few hungry folk to take some PB&J sandwiches off her hands.

Rachel, who has worked as the receptionist for Which Wich for the past six months, loves giving out sandwiches at the end of every day.

“It’s kind of fun to give sandwiches away every day. Some people are like uhhh whatever, but others are like yeah I’ll take that sandwich,” she says with a smile as she looks over at Johnathan Clark who decided to eat his free dinner after all.

Rachel gives out sandwiches all the time- whether it’s donated peanut butter and jelly or leftover sandwiches from the day.

Every time someone buys a sandwich, Which Wich donates a sandwich. Additionally, a certain amount of profit goes to global outreach.

“We get to go to children’s organizations after school where the kids need a snack, we go to the vet hospital we go to different places and we encourage each store to find their community someone they can do this for.

Rachel, originally from upstate New York, has lived in Dallas for the last 20 years after a divorce. Most of her family lived down here so she came with her two children who are both grown and married, each with one child so far.

“Most people don’t want to hear it but I’m a Christian and I used to make fun of Christians,” Rachel said. “One day the Lord tapped me on my shoulder and grabbed my attention. That’s by far the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Rachel, who used to make nearly $4,000 a day, had her ego popped when her income dropped to $0 with the 9-11 incident and reality hit her. It is the hardest thing she has had to overcome.

“It’s what everyone has to overcome and most people don’t even realize they have it. That’s the crazy thing about it,” she says with a laugh.

Rachel received her real estate license from Lubbock Christian College while still in high school in Lubbock. She had wanted to jump from high school to being a professional but walked across the graduation stage in high school four months pregnant.

“I graduated high school and went right in to mommy,” Rachel said with a look of pride.

Rachel said she hated her time at Lubbock Christian College, now Lubbock Christian University, “I’m not Church of Christ. It’s too legalistic,” she said with a whistle. “If the lord god was that in a box, that would be crazy.”

Before working at Which Wich, Rachel worked at a corporate wellness company where she had a lot of fun and loved seeing the company grow. She ultimately decided to leave when she watched the company grow away from its mission for customer service.

Now, she loves that she’s at a company where she gets to not only provide great customer service but give to those in need.

Dallas, homeless, parole

GPiizy

His name is Christopher Morgan but they call him GPiizy. He’s from Dallas, Texas but he was born in Garland, Texas, you know what I’m saying.

He’s GPiizy and he has been struggling all his life.

“I been through prison two three times, you know what I’m saying,” he said all pissed off. His birthday is coming up on April 29 and he gets the perfect gift. He gets off parole.

“Look bro, honestly, I gone have jobs. I have school. I been doing everything to get my life together,” he said. “And this morning man, everything went kapoop.”

It’s like this right here, “When you don’t have nothing like I have been all my life, been messed up all my life, you know what I’ve been saying, going back and forth to prison and at the same time trying to get myself together.

GPiizy had everything invested in him and his woman. They were going to start a business together but his investment tanked.

“You want to write a book? If you wrote a book about me and this dude right here, your book will go platinum,” he said, laughing at his friend who was trying to pick up a girl walking past. “I guarantee you.”

This morning was the beginning of the end. Everything went haywire and now he’s homeless.

“Man, look, I’m at a point in my life right now where I even went to the homeless shelter this morning to try to just go to the bottom to come back up,” he said with a hope in his eye that put a smile on his pissed off face.

“I had everything, you know what I’m saying, as far as my business school taking care of my business,” he said. “I been with this woman and this morning we had a spat.”

Her sister is a preacher and her brother lived with them.

“I was taking her to work man I got pissed off bro, and it clicked,” he said.

Christopher Morgan was trying to start a business called the mobile dollar. He was going to do “like a vending thing.” He was even going to have food, but now can’t afford to feed himself.

“The food was going to be the main thing,” GPiizy said, “but it was going to be called the mobile dollar because everybody go’n around town trying to get stuff for a dollar.”

GPiizy knows his company was going to be a great investment because people can’t leave out of downtown “to like get stuff.”

“I was going to make my money and become a millionaire of my mobile dollar. I had everything drawed up, my plans drawed up and everything,” he said.

Christopher Morgan was going to have a cart. He even had food and everything already. But this morning it all ended.

“I don’t know what’s going on with my life bro.”

StreetZine, Dallas, Newspaper

Vendor 1992 and the Dallas StreetZine

The woman in this story is a licensed vendor of the StreetZine but for reasons concerning an abusive ex-husband chose to remain anonymous.

On the corner of Akard and Main, Vendor 1992 holds a copy of the Dallas “StreetZine” in her right hand. Day-in and day-out she stands, except on Tuesdays, hoping to make a sale to the passing businesspersons walking past her post.

“I have actually been doing it since October [20]11,” she said. “I actually looked at the date today and was like, oh my gosh.”

Vendor 1992 can make her own hours and fit it into her schedule wherever she sees fits. She works in the office on Tuesday and acts as a vendor the rest of the time, selling the newspapers.

“It’s almost like psychology work selling newspapers,” she said. “When selling, people give me all their problems. And I have to use spirituality.”

Vendor 1992 had classes in psychology a long time ago, intro to psychology, psychology 101, “that sort of thing” but has studied spirituality for 35 years.

“So it’s easy for me to kind of get a person and see what’s going on with their personality and what’s going on with the physical,” she said.

The StreetZine, published by The Stew Pot of the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, sells for one dollar. Vendors purchase the papers for 25 cents, which helps The Stew Pot cover the cost of printing, and keep the remaining proceeds. Many of the vendors and contributing writers are homeless or economically disadvantaged in one way or another. The Zine also notes that the publication is not just for the homeless as “supporters and readers from every socio-economic level are able to and do make a difference in the lives of those looking for a hand up.”

The Zine is not exactly a spiritual publication, either. Inside, they also ask the public to write articles. People have the opportunity to submit anything they would like to submit.

“It could be recipes, it could be Sudoku anything about the town, Dallas or anything,” she said.

Vendor 1992 is not actually a member of the church. She has always been a Christian, having grown up a member of the Roman Catholic church, but decided to venture into becoming a “spiritual living” Christian. To her, they dug deeper into certain areas.

“I’m actually between the First Baptist Church of Dallas and St. Jude’s Chapel right now and flex between the two of them,” she said.

As a Christian, Vendor 1992 has ministered to people on the streets whether she wanted to or not. “Some days it’s right in front of my face and I can’t help it,” she said. “I don’t mind it if it’s not a whole lot of people. But, like if I have 8 people in a row, it’s just a whole lot.”

Dallas, Homeless

Davey Drew

A photographer stands, swaying, on the corner of Ervay and Elm with nothing in his hands but a paper CVS photo folder. The folder holds two beautiful pictures of slot canyons he tries to sell to a man walking past. He took them on his Cannon EOS. What others don’t know is that in the paper folder is another white envelope for extra protection of his best shot, his pride and joy.

Davey Drew is homeless right now and rather enjoys it. He likes the freedom and has for the past 25 years.

“I can travel all over the country, you know, shoot this with a camera, do what other people can’t do,” he said with a smile barely be seen through his greying beard. “Of course, I’m almost 60.”

The photographer has held other jobs before, but it was “just this and that, like everyone else. Junk.”

To get from city to city, Davey Drew takes greyhounds and hitches rides on freight trains.

“Anything that moves that’s going my way and that I can get in or get on. I don’t much think about where I’m going to go,” Davey Drew said. “I just, you know. I’ve already been there and somehow I liked it so much I ended up there again.”

He used to hitchhike but doesn’t anymore. You see, he’s crippled now.

“I fell very seriously, but it wasn’t on one of my photoshoots,” Davey Drew said. “I was just screwing around.”

Davey Drew peddles his photos across the country but is going to sell them on eBay soon. The best place he’s been is Arizona. Northern Arizona, to be precise, an area where he probably took the photos he’s now selling to the highest bidder.

“I lived in Arizona before I was homeless and I think I’m going to go there again next,” Davey Drew said. The last time Davey Drew was here was over 10 years ago. Even though he just arrived three or four days ago, he doesn’t know how long he’ll be in town, but he’s thinks he’ll be leaving soon.

It’s much warmer there.

“I aint worth a shit, but I like my life a lot and this is something to do.”