The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Guess What’s Illegal! September 5, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Guess What’s Illegal!


You’ll never guess what’s illegal in Dallas these days…


I went to see my friends Mary and Samuel at the home they call their ‘cardboard condo’ under a freeway overpass yesterday.  When I pulled up at the bottom of the hill near their camp, driving a car that is not my own, Mary didn’t know who was there.  Later she told me:  “Samuel asked me who was in that car, and I said ‘I don’t know — some white woman,’ until I could see it was you.”  Since Mary’s a ‘white woman’, too, we had a giggle about it, as we do about many things.


“You’re never going to believe what happened today!” she said as she climbed into the car’s passenger seat and began to soak up the solace of the air conditioning.  “We got a ticket — they’d been leaving us alone for a couple of weeks, so this was the first time lately — and guess what they wrote on the citation.”  


“Littering?  Sleeping in Public?  Obstructing the Place-Where-Nobody-Comes-Anyway?”


“No, get ready.  The ticket reads ‘old furniture, blankets, clothing and cups’.”


For some reason, this cracked both of us up.  Gallows humor?  Might as well laugh so ya’ don’t cry?  “Oh, man, seriously?” I asked, pulling out pad and pen, “I gotta’ write this down.”


“I know,” Mary said, “Can you believe it?  And there was only one cup — the one in my hand that I was drinking out of.”  We just sat there shaking our heads in amazement and looking at each other.


“Samuel said he’d just go ahead and serve a day in jail for it to get ‘time served,’ except then he’d have to miss work,” she said.


“Who issued the ticket?” I asked.  “The Marshalls?  The Dallas Police?  Were they polite?”


“DPD — the same two guys who always come, usually twice a week.  Yes, they’re polite.  No conversation, but nice.  I started to tell them, ‘Hey, you missed a couple of cans.  Shouldn’t you put ‘cans’ on there, too?  But I thought I’d better not say anything.”


“So ‘Old furniture, blankets, clothing and cup[s] are against the law now?” I asked her.


“I guess so.  First thing I said to Samuel, ‘I gotta’ tell Karen.  She’s never going to believe this one.’”




2 Responses to “Guess What’s Illegal!”

  1. John Norris Says:

    Well, I’m glad the police aren’t busting down our doors here in Valley Ranch. We have 50 year old blankets and sixty seven year old furniture from when my parents got married in 42. And of course, all the Betty Ford Clinic styrofoam cups. It’s a shame responsible police officers who care are caught in a system where they have to write ridiculous citations, and our homeless are subjected to indignity for their inauspicious living situations. Somehow everyone feels uncomfortable in what they’re doing, but no one has the access to meaningful change.

  2. Karen Shafer Says:

    Same for East Dallas, my friend! As usual, John, you’ve gotten it so right — and with ‘funnies’ — as well as compassion for all concerned.

    “It’s a shame responsible police officers who care are caught in a system where they have to write ridiculous citations, and our homeless are subjected to indignity for their inauspicious living situations.” Very true — the police have no choice — one almost gets the feeling they were just trying to be a little creative this time with their choice of wording!

    The problem won’t be solved until there is a whole lot more housing, and, for most people, it’s NIMBY — ‘not in my backyard.’ And, of course, until we stop looking at our homeless friends as criminals.

    Will you save me a Betty Ford Clinic cup?

    So glad you commented. See you soon.

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