TRANSIT AFFAIR

by Andre Lorenzo
     Many people sleep on the bus, but because I didn't have the full bus fare and the fact that I looked homeless, they arrested me. I know that I will keep one eye open from now on.
     It's already tough being homeless, but people make it harder. You may have clothes that don't fit that well, or shoes that are too big or your hair might not be combed because you don't have a comb that day. You get the point!
     Well, it happened to me one morning, after getting on the bus to go downtown.
I didn't make the shelter the night before because of the time. So I really was sleepy while riding an RTA [bus]. When the bus got to Tower City, I was asleep and the only one on the bus. Instead of the bus driver waking me up, she called the RTA police.
     When they arrived they immediately woke me up and told me to get off the bus. I apologized to the bus driver and to the police. But my clothes weren't the best so they arrested me. (That's the only reason that I can think of). I was in complete shock. They charged me with disorderly conduct and intoxication. I hadn't been drinking; I was just tired. They had no proof I was drunk, and didn't test me. My complaint read:
"Did, while voluntarily intoxicated do either of the following: 1. In a public place or in the presence of two or more persons, engage in conduct likely to be offensive or to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to persons of ordinary sensibilities, which conduct the offender, if he were not intoxicated, should know is likely to have such effect on others; 2. Engage in conduct or create a condition which presents a risk of physical harm to himself or another, or to the property."
     They took me to the fourth district police station. I told them that my name was Joe Piscopo, which made them mad. And that's where I stayed from Saturday morning to Thursday evening: five-and-one-half days for sleeping on the bus.
     The public defender did not talk to me until they called my case, and then he said that I was not guilty. I could not cover the $50 bail, so I had to go to the workhouse until my trial.
     I was tired of being in jail for sleeping on the bus, so I just said no contest at the trial just to get out of jail. That is how the system works.
     People should have more compassion for each other. But I'm talking about the real world. So the best thing I can suggest to you, or to us homeless people, is don't ride the RTA looking homeless. BUT WHAT DOES A HOMELESS PERSON LOOK LIKE???

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13