HOUSTON - During rush hour in Atlanta, a massive fire brought five lanes of I-85 crashing to the ground last week.
Investigators say it was intentionally set by a man named Basil Elbey.
“You got to wonder what’s bringing a whole freeway down. When you realize it was an encampment and a fire that started from a vagrant, then you start getting scared,” said Jim Honey, a Houstonian.
What happened in Atlanta is just the latest incident to cause outrage among residents fighting against tent cities in Houston.
They say the living rooms set ups, cooking equipment, and crime are a dangerous combination.
However, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner argues there’s more to the story.
“Let’s not just say homeless person, fire, bridge, the road comes down. There were combustible materials, and a lot of them, that were stored under the underpasses,” said Turner.
That’s why TXDOT now says it’s checking underpasses in Texas. They sent the following statement Wednesday:
“The Texas Department of Transportation continually performs bridge inspections on the state highway system. Safety is our priority and as such, we will be adding another layer of precautionary inspections to ensure there are no flammable materials being stored underneath these structures.”
Meanwhile, Houston city leaders are considering new rules.
Two ordinances will be up for a vote next week. One involves panhandling, and the other addresses homeless encampments.
“It’s not writing them a ticket and jailing them, that’s not the answer. We do want to remove these tents. We certainly want to remove any cooking equipment. And the current ordinance says we won’t allow anything that’s larger than 3x3x3,” said Turner.
He explained the ordinances are part of a six-prong approach to humanely transition the homeless to supportive housing.
However, neighbors like Jim Honey are not hopeful.
“More laws that we can’t enforce, so what? It’s all show,” said Honey.
He says as long as the homeless are allowed to stay without proper security, the encampments will continue to be a ticking time bomb.
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