January 19, 1998
Feature story by Michael Shead
“I always wanted to be a gangster,” he said.
After watching Capone movies as a child, Billy Pouncil had dreamed of being a gangster but that childhood daydream became a living nightmare.
At age 21, Pouncil stepped into the world of cocaine in downtown Tulsa. His realized dream of a gangster’s life was not the glorious one the movies had portrayed.
As a dealer, Pouncil ran three crack houses and spent nearly 30 years trading in the white powder.
With his experience and business, came the street reputation of a “macho guy” who would do anything for nearly any reason. Yet, as cocaine took over his life, he knew there had to be more to living than just controlling people dependent on his drugs.
Finally, after seeing two friends nearly kill each other over who got the next snort of cocaine, he turned to God for help.
Pouncil prayed, “Lord, change me.”
As if in reply to this prayer, the police raided his crack house.
In jail, Pouncil prayed for his release, and was soon back on the street. Little had changed, and Pouncil felt himself pulled back into drugs and the fight for survival on the street.
Three times, he prayed for the Lord to change him. Each time the police raided his crack house and arrested him. After the third arrest, he was sentenced to the state penitentiary.
In the penitentiary, Pouncil found a Bible and spent his time studying about the only one he knew Who could really change him.
Now, 51-year-old Pouncil is back on the street but spends his spare time reading the Bible at the homeless shelter where he lives.
“I’d rather be laid in a grave than go back to the crack world,” he says.
“I had to lose everything I had and loved before I wanted to know God,” Pouncil says.
Even with the Bible at his side, life is a struggle for the man who is trying to leave his past reputation and build a new life.
Until he gets the day job he has prayed for, Pouncil works the late shift until 2 a.m. at a cafe where he is constantly surrounded by the vices of the life he wants to forget. Pouncil says he sees people snorting cocaine and smoking “weed” all night.
He knows God answers prayer; so he trusts God to bring him out of the position he finds himself in now — homeless.
As he tries to put his past behind him, he often finds the odds are against him. Pouncil feels trapped in a gangster world that doesn’t want to let him go. His long reputation from life on the street is well-known and being among drug users makes recovery a slow and often discouraging road to travel.
He sees his homelessness as a nearly hopeless situation.
Glancing around at the people who shared the shelter with him, he said, “The way I’m going I’m not turning anything around. This is the life of a nobody.”
The former gangster has caught a glimpse of the light at the end of his dark tunnel, but recovery from 30 years of drugs is a long road to travel.