by: Capella Tucker, November 22, 2007 12:11:00 am
"I'm standing on the corner of Fannin and McGowan at a Metro bus stop, right across the street from SEARCH. The only indication that a different type of bus comes this way is that at the bottom of the Metro sign it says, in blue words, Project Access."
Normally a 40-person, non-descript bus makes the rounds. This day it's a full size coach bus. In the front seat is a large man.
"You can just call me the volunteer, Leroy, the volunteer."
Leroy is a veteran, of the military and the bus, and today is making sure Project Access makes its appropriate stops.
"Right now they are going ... time to pick them up."
"Come on fellas, good morning ..."
Caseworker Willie Brackins welcomes aboard about 18 homeless people who ate breakfast at teh Palmer Way station. Brackins rides the bus to help anyone who is newly homeless or unfamiliar with services to help them. Many of those services are along the Project Access route.
"It helps them to get around ... allowed to sit around, wash their clothes, take showers and stuff like that."
"Ben Taub is the next stop. If you are here for Ben Taub come on down."
Various clinics, Social Security Administration, the V.A. and Operation I.D. are just some of the stops. All places that Leroy, the volunteer, used when he was piecing his life back together.
"I used to have an apartment right down there on MacGregor and things happen sometimes ... I've fought my demons ... thank God, it's been eight years. Just live and try to let live."
Leroy now works at the V.A.
"Citywide, they do everything possible ... survive anywhere, because they really try to help you here.
HealthCare for the Homeless manages Project Access. Last year about 45,000 homeless rode the bus. Houston can be difficult to navigate without a car and Project Access helps the homeless connect the different agencies.
"The bus is the main piece in the puzzle. It's the glue that holds everything down."
Project Access gets a lot of requests to add other routes to include such locations as LBJ Hospital. But officials say funding limits the bus to its current route.
"SEARCH, this stop is for SEARCH."
Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.