From my office in downtown Lake Jackson, I can see four streets through the corner office windows – Oak Drive, Parking Way, South Parking Place and Circle Way. Children walking home from Lake Jackson Intermediate, joggers, walkers and homeless people stroll past my office day by day. Yes, I said homeless people. In Lake Jackson, Texas.
It came to my attention about five years ago that there was a homeless man who wandered around downtown. He slept under our outside stairwell at the insurance office for a while, now he meanders through the streets with a drink in his hand most of the time. I think local stores and restaurants provide him with free beverages. Since the duplexes across the street are now vacant I think he sleeps in them when he’s not in jail.
About a year ago another homeless man popped up. He is a former Brazoswood High School quarterback. His house has been condemned by the city due to his neglect. There have been several people who have tried to help him, both financially and with housing accommodations. He sits on park benches or walks down Oyster Creek Drive with a bag in his hand.
Both of these men seem to have mental instability, yet are cognizant enough to walk around, eat and find shelter.
Now there seems to be another man who is having trouble with housing, and he looks to live out of his car. I have seen people coming to the car helping him with laundry and he disappears for a few days then comes back. He is younger than the other two and isn’t nearly as visible during the day.
What or should a community the size of Lake Jackson do about the homeless? We aren’t Houston where there are hundreds of people sleeping under bridges or walking around with shopping carts. Larger cities have shelters and soup kitchens; they have some semblance of an infrastructure to help the homeless. We have a temporary shelter in the county for the homeless, but as our area grows it would seem more and more homeless men and women would appear.
There are probably more homeless in Lake Jackson than I’ve witnessed, and some might be children. I would like to hope that these three men aren’t invisible to our city, that someone or some entity is helping them, but I’m not sure because I haven’t taken the time to inquire. What happens if tragically we end up with 20 homeless men and women walking around downtown Lake Jackson?
My guess (and hope) is that these guys are being helped. That some church or organization or Good Samaritan is providing food or drink and maybe shelter. But it’s a big challenge for anyone to deal with the mentally ill.
It might not be an epidemic in Lake Jackson just yet, but let’s hope we don’t wake up one day to see our city dotted with people who have no home. The closer that poverty is to the face of people that aren’t in poverty, the uglier it is. I hope Lake Jackson doesn’t become ugly.
Russell Burnett Jr. is a resident of Lake Jackson.