HOUSTON - For the last year, city officials have struggled to get Houston’s homeless off the streets and into shelters.
Instead, tents seem to have multiplied. Frustrated neighbors say the crime and trash has too.
Now, the city is exploring a new downtown option for the homeless, as part of a 6-month pilot program.
The idea is to open an outdoor, temporary shelter with 24-hour security, bathrooms, and on-site management at a METRO property at 699 McKee Street. It could be open by the end of winter.
Marilyn Brown, CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless, says the shelter will be low-barrier.
“If you’re drinking, if you have a drug problem…there are so few restrictions as long as your behavior in the shelter isn’t disruptive to others,” said Brown.
So far, people living in encampments near Minute Maid Park and under Highway 59 have repeatedly turned down shelters. Going to the new facility will be voluntary as well.
“Having them feel confident when we say that its low barrier and there won’t be requirements when they get there, they’ll feel safer. What it will do is peel off all the bad actors,” said Brown.
Brown says the proposed facility will be a temporary place for the homeless to go while they wait for permanent housing.
Earlier this year, the Houston City Council passed ordinances banning tents and aggressive panhandling.
The ACLU sued the City as a result, which led to a judge issuing an injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinances.
As of Tuesday, the judge had not made a decision on the City’s request to lift the injunction.