A Walk In These Shoes

A Mile With Regina

Affectionately known in the streets as “Ma”, Miss Regina Waller was born August 1st 1958 in 3rd Ward Houston Texas.  She says her upbringing was very normal.  There were 9 total kids in which she was number four or five.  I say it that way because she had a twin brother that died at birth.  The 59 year old reminisced about playing with her siblings and her friends all through grade and junior high.  “That was when communities were communities”.  “When everyone looked out for each other” she frustratedly voiced.  Anyone born before the 90’s can probably agree with that.
She says that she dropped out of Jeff Davis High school in the 11th grade to go and take care of her elderly father.  She didn’t really get into how long she did that but said sometime after he passed away, the days were filled with too many “recreational activities” and not enough “non-recreational activities”.  The 70s and early 80s were fun for a while but like anything, life starts to catch up with you.
The “War On Drugs” came through hard on certain communities and if you know the history of 3rd and 5th ward Houston, no exceptions were made.  She says she got hit with a 7 year sentence her first time being arrested.  For dealing?  NO!  For doing.  Let me say that again.  7 years for doing drugs, not dealing.  Sorry, but I had to say that again.  Back to Regina.  She says she was released after a year and put on probation.  Like so many people thrown into the prison system, she soon returned for a two year sentence and another three year sentence.  All times were for being caught with drugs in her system.
After the last release which was about 10 years ago, she was finally able to get help for her addiction and vowed to never return to the system.  She moved in with her mother and was able to stay out of trouble…..for about 5 years.  Now, I know there are two sides to every story.  Regina’s side is this.  She says she and two of her brothers were living with her mother and sometime in 2012, her older sister showed up at the house they were all living in, packed up their mother, and took her away to live with her.  She says not too long after that, the landlord/owner shows up at the house and ordered her and the two brothers to vacate the property.  I asked her what made her sister do that in which she responded “she just does shitty things like that sometimes”.
Since that day, five years ago, she has been without a house.  After spending the first few years in and around 5th ward, Regina said she decided to spend her time around the downtown area.  She explained that it’s much more peaceful for her.  “It’s more areas to disappear to when you don’t want to be bothered” she says.  She says at her age, she prefers to grab a beer from one of the local stores, smoke a cigarette, and “people watch” until its time for her to start making it back to The Star of Hope Shelter on Dowling Street.  Although she doesn’t enjoy the journey to 3rd ward because of tension with her sister, she sometimes gathers enough money to catch the bus and visit her 91 year old mother and back.
“Ma” has been working with The Star of Hope Center on Dowling Street with one of their home placement programs.  She hopes the message that they’ve found a home for her will come before winter gets here.  She says “five years for an old woman is a long time out here” but that she believes that God will deliver when it’s time.  Until that day comes, she says she will continue to visit the church she recently joined on Fry Street every Sunday, collect a few dollars throughout the day, and hope that they find her a house sometime soon.  She used to hold out hope that her sister’s heart would soften and she would invite her off of the streets but after 5 years….the hope she had is all but faded away.