“Once again, if you have never been to SEARCH, first-timers come through…”
It’s one-thirty in the afternoon and there’s a line outside of the SEARCH Homeless Services building in downtown Houston. President Thao Costis and her crew are about to let in more than a hundred people.
“Twice a day we ask people to come in. We see about a hundred twenty to a 130 people each time and they are coming for showers, mail, use the telephone, get a hot meal and see a case manager who can help them get into housing perhaps, see a doctor and try to get a job.”
As you pass the intake area and head down the halls you can hear the sound of showers running like a school lockeroom…and there’s also the sound of pots clanging as cooks prepare the afternoon meal.
Costis says many of the long term homeless have mental illness issues, but there are also some who’ve simply lost a job and have no where to go.
“Most of the people that are coming in here, they don’t have a support system: friends, family. They’ve broken ties, or they’re ashamed of their situation and where they’ve gotten.”
The agency has several mobile units that go out and interact with people living on the streets, letting them know about their services and some of the things they can do for them. On this day, driver Steven Foster heads to a downtown park to pass out socks.
“Mostly majority men and they hang out there in the park usually during the day time and then, go to a couple other places at night.”
As soon as the van stops, the men in the park make a beeline for the back of the vehicle where the doors open. In the past SEARCH would pass out food. But today, it’s socks.
“Got some socks here…”
The socks were donated by the Newfield Exploration Company. Some of their employees came out to help with the giveaway. This is Keith Schmidt.
“When the homeless have been polled they found that one item of clothing that they all relished having was clean socks. So that’s what we’re trying to do and that’s why we brought that van full today.”
Some of the men said they were going to put on the new socks right away. And even though their lives are in turmoil, most smiled and seemed to be grateful for what they were given.
Bill Stamps, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
We would like to thank SEARCH for providing many of the above photographs.