Putting Lives Back Together at Beacon Day Shelter

Reginald Bennett

When Reginald Bennett flagged us down outside of The Beacon on a recent day he was leaning against the wall, dressed to the nines in a lime green beanie and dress pants. He had even accessorized his outfit with some Mardi Gras beads.

The rest of his clothes were tucked away inside plastic garbage sacks stacked against the wall alongside him. As he chatted with us he eyed the bags closely. Clothing is a commodity when you're living on the streets, and it would be easy to lose sight of them out here, considering each person has at least a few bags in tow.

It makes sense that he'd be so careful, though. Those bags contain everything Reginald owns. There used to be more -- dress shoes, nicer pants -- but he's sold everything of value for crack. He's been addicted to the drug for many, many years now, and even with a few tries in a treatment facility, he's been unable to kick the habit.

He's lost everything to the drug. He paid the dope dealer instead of paying rent, and the management at the apartment, and his roommate (his brother) would only take excuses for so long.

As the addiction has progressed, so has the loss. He sold his phone for $5 recently, and even his Lone Star Card has gone to the dealer. And now, as he looks around at the bags beside him, he motions to what's left. A few bags of clothes, and those Mardi Gras beads strung around his neck.

And yet, even with all of those years of addiction under his belt, Reginald beams from ear to ear as he speaks. He's the definition of giddy, and his eyes light up as he speaks of everything from his need to do laundry to what he hopes to become in the future.

That seems to be the one thing that crack hasn't stolen from Reginald. He's still got hope for his life. At 55, if he can find a treatment center, this will officially be his sixth attempt at sobriety, but he says he's ready to beat the addiction.

He's even ready for work -- he'd be just right for some clerical or office work, he says -- and even if he's not able to figure it out right away, he's always willing to learn.

All it takes is finding a place that will give him the chance.

Read the complete story on Houston's homeless in this week's cover story.

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