Hours after city crews filled garbage trucks with 10 tons of debris from a homeless encampment underneath the Southwest Freeway, the homeless people had returned.
An estimated 60 to 80 people call the area home, but the city’s chief medical officer calls it a health hazard.
“This area was designated to be a public health nuisance,” said Marc Eichenbaum, special assistant to the mayor for homeless initiatives. “It is a health emergency underneath here, and by state law, the city was required to clean it up.”
The mess included a lot.
“Feces and urine and maggots and rodents,” Eichenbaum said.
Gross stuff some people didn’t want to leave, even temporarily.
“Why would you want to make it harder on somebody who’s got a hard time as it is?” said one camp resident.
Crews began notifying residents by posting flyers on Monday to avoid the effort coming as a surprise.
“Can’t have grills, you can’t cook, you can’t have this or that,” said “Michelle.” “Is the mayor going to offer housing, jobs, and food for us while we’re here?”
The city actually offered to store any items homeless couldn’t carry away but wanted to keep. Advocates provided immediate emergency housing for anyone who wanted it.
“They’re always having to balance safety issues with humanitarian issues,” said nearby business owner Philip Brown.
Brown owns an optical shop within sight of the camp. He said the number of homeless multiplied last fall.
“I don’t understand the whole situation,” Brown said. "We’re just hoping they’ll come up with a more permanent solution.”
That’s something the city says it’s working on while addressing more pressing concerns.
“And we’re working with all of these folks on getting them long- term housing,” Eichenbaum said. “But in the meantime, we can’t be allowing anyone to be living in this filth.”
The homeless were allowed to return to the tent city after the cleanup was complete.
“A lot of people are cooperating. A lot of people are pleased,” Eichenbaum said. “But you can’t please everybody.”
The city says some 11,000 people have been housed over the last six years through its homelessness initiatives. The last one-day homeless camp clean-up near Minute Maid Park yielded seven tons of debris.
Here’s a look at the abatement order for Thursday’s project:
Persse - Order to Abate San Jacinto to Almeda Road by KHOU on Scribd