Highly Visible Billboard Reminds Houston Drivers of the Invisibility of Homelessness

HIGHLY VISIBLE BILLBOARD REMINDS HOUSTON DRIVERS OF THE INVISIBILITY OF HOMELESSNESS You can’t miss it: Just south of Downtown, this pristine billboard went up recently above the northbound feeder of I-45. Its lonesome assertion, “Even the pigeons don’t see me,” is attributed to the “voice of the homeless.” What gives? Glasstire’s Paula Newton explains: “[I]t’s meant to raise awareness about homelessness. The billboard is a project by artist Jessica Crute in conjunction with a group show at Deborah Colton Gallery called Collective Identity. Crute [is] president and founder of a young non-profit organization Voice of the Homeless.” [Glasstire] Photo: Glasstire

38 Comment

  • Oh, I see them and they see me! In fact, one of them comes up to me every 30 feet when I am downtown, this is why I only go when I have to.

  • I’m sorry.. I’m going to be heartless and say that most of the homeless are homeless because of their own desire.

    In today’s cradle-to-grave care about every aspect of life, I do not see how someone can end up homeless. There is already free shelter if you want it, welfare benefits, food banks and food stamps and anything to keep them off the streets.

    The only thing I would consider as being a problem in the “homeless community” is substance abuse and/or mental illness. Perhaps we should address that rather than a blanket “homeless need help.” That would be a more believable campaign.

  • @benny & Bill, +1,000

  • Not a day goes by where I am not acutely aware of homeless people. Be it their trash strewn about the pierce elevated, someone trying to move dirt around on my windshield with a squeegee, or someone trying to get my attention to give them some cash for some random reason. They are far too visible.

  • This billboard doesn’t make sense, on multiple levels. First off, pigeons don’t care whether you’re homeless or not–they just care whether you have food or are about to step on them–so as a literal statement, it’s silly. Then there’s the fact that EVERYBODY sees the homeless; it’s just that many of them wish they didn’t.

    IMO, as a way of raising awareness about homelessness, this billboard is ham-handed at best and trivializes the issue at worst.

  • I have a family member who has gone homeless for over a decade. He was always welcome to stay with a number of family members and was more than capable of going to relief agencies and get government benefits, much less work a job etc. He does not want to be homeless. His issue, and that of most of the homeless, is that he cannot deal with living in our world. He cannot deal with the expectations, the failures, the criticisms that we are able to face every day. His mental health issues make the every day hard knocks we face into devastating and debilitating events. In his homeless world, he just worries about staying safe and getting some food. There are no jobs to lose, marriage to break up, no kids to disappoint, no pay cuts, no apartment to get evicted from, no medical bills, no late payment notices, and no friends to embarrass and disappoint. We too easily take it for granted that our ability to get through the day is not something that most homeless people share mostly due to mental illness. Life on the street for them is just a less emotionally damaging way of life, not a preference.

  • Wow Benny and Bill, not the realistic, factual and objective response I expected to this story.


  • Didn’t Jesus say that the poor will always be with us?

    And then he told us to give away all our money or something. Guy must have been a socialist.

  • Old School, thanks for sharing this personal story. I think it underscores what most of us suspect: that most of the chronically homeless have mental health issues. Like Bill said, I think this should be a bigger part of our efforts to help the homeless.

  • A couple of weeks ago I was driving under that bridge just in time to see “homeless” guy leaning against a pole in plain site taking a shit , so , no I do have an ounce of pity for that guy, the truly homeless seek out help through agencies ad shelters, bums on the other hand stand on the corner begging for money, then drink it away, huge difference……

  • If there is a better way to help the homeless, let’s hear it. Renting that billboard to put up some trite attempt at guilt mongering just spent some thousands of dollars that could have bought some meals for people that are barely hanging on to reality.

    You can’t commit them against their will and they can not willingly live in community with other human beings.

    They need our help, but I am at a loss as to what will actually work, and by work, I don’t mean make “advocates” feel better about themselves.

  • I see the homeless in my backyard going through my trash bins, bathing at my garden
    hose, looking for anything of value, stashing their stuff under my house, cursing
    me when I don’t give ’em money.
    Check out the Wheeler Metrorail station
    about 7AM any day of the year; Metro “cops”
    won’t even get out of their vehicles at Wheeler . . . The new tenants at the Post
    Properties apartment house Spur@Richmond
    are in for a rude awakening if they think
    they’ll be a short train ride from the medical center. Most will get fed up w/the bums at the station and drive the short distance to work.

  • The sponsors of this billboard need to spend more time in public transit and on Main street. They’re not invisible because you can feel their breath in your face demanding handouts or pushing you aside to ride for free in the Mobile A/C Benefit, er, the trolley ride down Main.

  • Look at the bright side. Putting up that billboard made somebody feel good. So don’t go gettin’ all offended.

  • Yes. I see them…This afternoon I “relocated” a gentleman who was sleeping against my garage door. I have politely asked him to leave, every day for the last three days. Today I called Precinct 7.

  • This is a mental health/substance abuse issue, and saying people “don’t see the homeless” is a waste of a good billboard.

  • I think this billboard is pretty ridiculous too, so now would be a good time to take a moment and rant against the homeless.

  • Ah, yes. Combine a non-profit with “Art” and you have tax breaks for attention whoring.

  • Why dont the homeless move to the country or some small towns where it is less competitive?? Oh thats right, they cant find anyone there to hound for money and try their pity me approach to score dope money. Yea I said it!

  • the trolling, it is strong on this one, yes.

  • Ms. Crute, Ms. Colton and Mr. Newton need to walk the streets of downtown especially around the Beacon every night and they will experience what the residents of the area, visitors see each night. . . the Street people whom some call homeless. The street people refuse to go to shelters they prefer sleeping on the sidewalks and begging. The difficult question is what do we do with folks who refuse to go to shelters or residential placement but want to live on th streets? How is this fair to the downtown residents and the visitors who wish to enjoy quality of life in the central businesses district? The Beacon and similar organizations are empowering the street people to remain on the street instead of helping them.

  • I agree with Old School, most homeless are mentally ill and the hospitals are completely ill equipt to deal with them. We should see the homeless and be ashamed that we tolerate hospitals just dumping them into the street. Dealing with them can be scary, you never know what they may do. I had a homeless guy in San Antonio tell me he stole my dog and demanded a ransom, he was crazy serious and very threatening, I told him my dog would tear his ass up if tried to steal him (not an invalid statement) he then laughed and completely changed, after I went and found a cop whose sage advice was to ignore the homeless, I was like, uh ok, thanks Einstein. Law enforcement is useless, they just pass the buck and shuffle on to give a guy a ticket for rolling a stop sign

  • I am disappointed, but not surprised by the negative comments.

    After hearing that many homeless feel invisible, I now make a point of nodding or saying hello or looking the person in the eye if asked for money or food. I sometimes grab an extra water bottle or a funsize candy bar to share with someone on my way out to the parking garage, sadly I have encountered too many elderly homeless people downtown. With one notable exception, the homeless I have encountered keep to themselves and seem to appreciate being “seen,” even if I don’t have money or water or a chocolate bar to give them.

  • 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
    36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
    37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
    38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
    39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
    40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
    41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
    42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
    43 A stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
    44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
    45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
    46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Matthew 25: 35-46

  • 47 The meek will inherit the earth, after the rich people are through with it!!!

  • Advice I got from the Miss Manners column ages ago that works – when approached by someone I don’t know asking something random, I shake my head and say “sorry.” It works pretty much 98% of the time. It also has the advantage that when it really is someone who actually needs directions or wondering what time it is or whatever (which DOES occur), you haven’t been a jackass to them and can go ahead and tell them where the (oh, I dunno – Main Street) is with no apologies needed.

  • Why won’t the haters respond to the comments regarding the bible?

  • Having been homeless myself, I can speak to the relevancy of the message on the Voice of the Homeless billboard in Houston.
    Most people ignore or at least do their best to ignore the homeless. Therefore, when you are in that situation as I was, you often times feel invisible and completely insignificant. I recall a time when I was weak from lack of food and I completely collapsed in a train depot right next to the tracks. A train arrived and dozens of people were getting on and off of the train, walking all around me as they went. Not one of them stopped to check on me, in fact most did not even look at me as if I were not even there.
    The billboard’s caption; EVEN THE PIGEONS DON’T SEE ME should evoke the reader to empathize with the plight of the homeless and to consider the honorable notion to simply CARE MORE!
    If as individuals we each do our part to care more about the less fortunate of this world, then the problem of homelessness would simply vanish into the renewed landscape of a better world. As it is however, massive homelessness is a symbol of how far our society has yet to go in achieving what God would have us do second of all things and that is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
    The vast majority of homeless people do not have computers, so as a former homeless person, I will also attempt to speak on their behalf.
    First of all, the government assistance programs have allot of flaws and many homeless people receive no help at all and very few receive what they need. The most important thing any homeless person needs is love. Even one person who truly cares can make all of the difference that is needed.
    Every homeless person also has other needs specific to their own situation. Food, clean water, clothing, shelter, a job, medical assistance or assistance in finding resources are among the most common needs. Offering to help a homeless person to get in touch with family or friends can also help them dramatically. Consider the idea of asking a homeless person; how can I help you? Or, what do you need? You are likely to be very surprised as to how simple it would be to help them with what they need and thereby making a lasting difference in the life of a fellow human being.
    Anyone living on the streets has a problem. It might be with mental health, substance abuse, financial problems, legal issues or in some cases, just misfortune of circumstances. For each and every problem however, there is a solution, and at the core of each solution is at least one person who cares. Who among us cannot afford to give a little of our time, some food or some water, a cellphone call or some other kind gesture to a person in need? If you do not feel the courage to do this directly, then I suggest that you consider giving a contribution to an organization that does. Both the Bread of Life and the Voice of the Homeless in Houston are excellent choices for such donations to help the homeless and are completely nonprofit. If you chose to pass by those in need and do nothing, or if you have nothing positive to say about those who simply wish to help, then I suggest that you be silent, or you will only amplify your own shame.
    As for me, I am no longer homeless and am very thankful to God for all of the people who showed me kindness and caring during my time of need. I am particularly thankful for the one person who has stood by me through everything and has always given me the one thing everyone needs the most, unconditional love.
    As for Ms. Crute and Ms. Colton, I offer my deepest thanks for helping thousands of us consider the noble idea of CARING MORE.
    If you have love in your heart, please share it.
    If you have no compassion, at least be silent and stay out of the way.

  • So we are to respond to a work of fiction. You need better reading material. As for Hdtex, cutting/pasting is intellectually lazy.

  • Dear Bible: you’re a 2000+ year old relic, full of absurd gospels (i mean Adam and Eve, Moses, all that walk on water and turning water into wine, so 30 AD)and you’ve been turned into a conduit for bigots and racists, maybe it’s time to retire.

  • Because its fairy tales and nonsense, but the moment sane people criticise it, the glassed look sheeple crowd goes all ape.

  • The worst thing about this billboard isn’t the poor message, it’s the location. you only see it if you are on the 45 exit for downtown, it’s really hard to see from 45 itself.
    if gained anything from the message, it’s that billboard should actually just be removed entirely.

  • The chronic homeless are mentally ill and there are only two options. You can either shut them up in mental hospitals or leave them free on the streets. We tried the mental hospitals, but that only lead to horrid conditions. Many people with the kindest hearts went to help in those places at best game out with cold hearts, at worst came out as abusive monsters.

  • To all the haters who seem to post vile words about the homeless, please continue to read and post your comments. I know Ms. Cute, and she has walked the streets with the homeless, she has spent time at the shelters asking many of them, “What’s your story,” “Why are you homeless?” There will always be bums, or slackers in life. I bet you have a few slackers at work and they get paid for looking busy while the rest of his/her co workers pick up the slack for them. Whether someone chooses to stay on the streets, or go to shelters, or be a bum at work, just know all the billboard is asking is that we see the homeless problem and start talking about it and get involved. So, thank you for taking the time out your day to make a comment. By commenting you have at least gotten yourself involved, either positively or negatively, but you have involved yourself in this discussion. Just maybe you can mustard up a kind word or smile the next time you cross paths with someone less fortunate than you. So, if you have taken the time to read all of the comments on this blog, then you have probably been talking about this topic with others, so you have helped, because YOU’RE INVOLVED. I have personally helped someone, who found themselves homeless and living on the streets for months, and became ill while living on the sidewalks and uderpasses of Dallas. This person would have died, all I had to do was invest my time and advocate on their behalf until their mental and physical health was restored. One person can make a difference in someone’s life, he is no longer homeless. I asked everyone to please CARE MORE and get involved. Thank you for reading and keep commenting, let’s keep the discussion going, just maybe between all of us we will find a solution.

  • Is this the “character” you innerloopers speak of?

  • Believe me, plenty of “character” all over the city these days – just about every freeway overpass and major intersection. Many abandoned strip malls actually do have inhabitants too, just not officially sanctioned residents.

  • This is to Bill. Stop caressing your own ego and judging the homeless for random reasons you havent really considered well. If you are wrong , well, your’re wrong. But if you are correct, well you are still wrong. Consider for a moment if they are homeless due to their own desires, let alone substance and/or mental disease. Well maybe you should really think about it and you will see that perhaps someone so beat up by something in this beautiful life to feel like that needs help and love as well.

  • I was picked to serve on a jury at the Criminal Court House in Downtown Houston. I am shaken by the devastatingly poor people I am seeing. I really want to help, but don’t know how. I know that I could hand them a little money or a care package of sorts, but that won’t cure this. I think we as a city must care for these people no matter how much we dislike the whole situation. But for the grace of God, there go we. Many seem justified in their comments which reveal hardened hearts. This is not good. Each person is a brother or sister, and we are our brothers’ keepers. I am not rich, but compared to street people I am. I want to help as I stated above, but don’t know how to do it. Yes, we give what money we can to charity. This situation really bothers me.