Come walk a mile with Christopher. Born in Lafayette, LA in 1970, Christopher is an 11 year veteran of the streets. Moving from the relatively small town to the Southside of Houston was a huge contrast for the eight year old boy. Everything was going well until he started high school. That’s when the “hustling life” and all that comes with it, dug its nails into him…hard. Money, cars, and girls quickly filled Chris’s schedule. Little time left for books and studying he dropped out of Sterling Aviation High School.
He says he avoided any kind of legal troubles until he was about 21 years old. That’s when he was arrested for possession and given two months in jail. A “slap on the hand” as he calls it. After his release, he returned picked up where he left off. Again, he stayed under the radar for about five years when a disagreement with his girlfriend let to a series of life changing events.
Chris claims his girlfriend became very angry with him after he stopped giving her money. He says that in retaliation, she filed assault charges on him. He says about 4 months later, he gets stopped by the police. During a search of the car, a large amount of narcotics was recovered as well as $27K in cash. He claims that during the negotiations between the lawyers, the state agreed to take the drugs and cash off the table if he plead guilty to the assault charges against him. He says that not fully understanding the legal system at the time, he thought this to be his best option so he agrees. He gets in front of the judge and is slapped with a 10 year prison sentence in TDC. (Texas Department of Corrections) While in TDC, he moved all over Texas to different prisons until his release in 2006.
As you can imagine, after 10 years away from society, a lot had changed. All his friends were either buried 6 feet under or had gone on to start new families with lives of their own now. With nowhere to turn, Christopher found himself living on the streets of Houston. I inquired about his mother and father but he seemed a bit reluctant to speak about them. He did, however, speak fondly of his sister who lives in North Carolina and his brother who lives out in nearby Baytown. He says they invite him to come live with him all the time but he says he doesn’t want be a burden to them or their families. But listening to his voice and seeing the look in his eyes when he spoke about them, I assume he is carrying a lot of shame and guilt from his past actions and isn’t at the point where he can face them…yet. At least, that’s the feeling I got from it.
I asked Christopher to explain his day to day life on the streets. After repeating about 4-5 times “it’s hard, its really hard”, he broke some of it down for me. He wakes up around nine or so in the morning. He checks in at the “Campsite” to see what’s going on with everyone. The Campsite is what they call their hangout area. Then he says he “flies his sign” trying to collect enough money to eat for the day. He says that rainy days are the absolute worse for collecting. People don’t want to roll down their window and are generally in a more glum mood when the clouds are out. Although all at the campsite are in the same predicament, he said that it really comes down to an “every man for themselves” mentality. “Having your stuff stole is just a way of life out here”. “Police harassment is to be expected”. “Drugs and alcohol abuse is the only way some know how to cope with their situation”. Just a few and thoughts quotes expressed by Christopher.
At 46 years old, Christopher Joseph Simeon expresses a very very slight optimism when I asked him if he sees himself getting back on his feet at some point. Although few and far between, Chris says that he continues to take day labor jobs when the opportunity presents itself. He said until then….he is trusting that his God will deliver him from the situation when the time is right.