Stories & Articles - Archive

You Can’t Get There From Here

“Would You Tell Me, Please, Which Way I Ought To Go From Here?” This is Alice’s question, as she faces the zany cast of characters in Wonderland. She falls down the rabbit hole, life is suddenly absurd, and she doesn’t know where to go.

On a recent evening my husband and I were leaving the River Oaks Theatre. We walked down the sidewalk of West Gray, and saw a bedraggled old man, sitting quietly in the doorway of one of the shops. As we got closer, he held up an all too familiar sign: ANYTHING HELPS. It was dark and drizzling. Maybe that’s why we stopped. I rarely do this, but I handed him a small amount of cash. “Thank you,” he said, and then he did the polite and civilized thing we all do when thanking someone. He extended his hand. So, I took his hand and simply said, “You’re welcome.” We walked toward our car, and in a matter of 12 minutes we were home. I don’t know where our pan-handler slept that night, but it was probably outside. Nor do I know where he has sought help, or even if he has. He could be mentally ill or addicted to alcohol, or sick. There are many possibilities, but he obviously needs some help.

The absurdity of Alice’s adventures makes me think of what this man and so many others like him are up against, as they try to get out of the deep hole they find themselves in. It is remarkably easy to wind up homeless, and surprisingly difficult to figure out how to “exit homelessness,” as they say. Stand in this line for that, and get in that line for this. And oh, by the way, that paper has to be notarized. No, you can’t get into our program if you can’t prove that you have an alcohol addiction. You can’t stay here since our grant only covers men over 50; you’re 49. You need your Social Security card to replace your stolen photo ID. You need your photo ID to replace your stolen Social Security card. It goes on and on. They might as well be told “You can’t get there from here.”

So, where should they go? Walking through the door at COMPASS can make a difference. We’ve been helping our homeless neighbors for 32 years with reliable, sound information, with the necessary bus fare to connect with other essential resources, and with compassionate direction and guidance from an experienced staff. We know where and how to direct our clients – the poor, the homeless, the unemployed – depending on their individual needs. And many COMPASS clients can hope to get a job eventually – as a warehouse associate, a customer service representative, a cook, a driver, a laborer, or even as a high school chemistry teacher, as one client did. COMPASS is small and privately funded. We rely on individual gifts, and I am asking you for your support. Anything Helps.

Cynthia Brannon
Executive Director

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Houston COMPASS, Inc.
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Houston, TX 77002

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