William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 11 Nov 2003 09:02:33 -0500


Depot a dead end for stranded couple

HOUSTON'S NEW stadiums, its new light rail system and the face-lift being
given the downtown area made little impression on Robert John and Angelina
Martini Hill.
The couple from Portland, Ore., found themselves stranded here two weeks
ago, their bus tickets and a credit card locked in a rented locker at the
bus depot, according to Houston lawyer Helen Mayfield.
The time on the locker expired, they said, but they had run out of money and
couldn't pay the rent on it unless they could retrieve its contents. A
security guard at the Greyhound station wouldn't allow that, they said.
The couple went to Mayfield's office downtown and asked for assistance.
Recalling a similar experience of her own, Mayfield agreed to help.
She said her efforts to help John, a construction worker, and Hill, who said
she has leukemia and uses a pacemaker, made her wonder what it's like for
others who are down on their luck in Houston.
She tried to find them a place to spend the night, but said several
organizations she contacted were unable to help.
"I used to be able to call and get stuff," Mayfield said about her days as a
social worker before she became a lawyer. "Now all that stuff has dried up."
She finally called Diane Houston, a Houston school district employee who, on
her own, seeks out the homeless and distributes donated blankets, clothing
and food.
Houston found John and Hill outside the bus station with other homeless
people and gave them blankets, food and a small amount of cash. She also
agreed to pay their locker fees so they could reclaim their belongings.
Houston paid $18 to have one of the couple's two lockers opened and a
suitcase removed. But the bus tickets and credit card had been in the second
locker, which now was empty.
Greyhound officials told them the items were not in the storage area where
such property usually is kept, Mayfield said, and they didn't know who had
removed them.
Greyhound officials did not respond to the Chronicle's request for comment.
Houston gave the couple her phone number and said she would try to find them
accommodations for the night, but she never saw them again.
Mayfield said officials at Smartcarte, which operates the lockers, told her
that records showed a Greyhound employee had opened the locker for
inspection after the rental time expired.
Greyhound never found the items. Mayfield said she hasn't heard from the
couple since.
-- Harvey Rice