Friday morning, Houston's Mayor Sylvestor Turner made the announcement via social media, about the clean-up at the Midtown homeless encampment.
The mayor of Houston also Tweeted why the change and explained plans for the location:
Residents in the area have reported numerous crimes as many have become targets for predators in the area. Crimes including murders and incidents where local residents have become terrorized have also been reported.
KTRH spoke with City Council member Michael Kubosh who had this reaction...
Just after 10am, the Mayor's office issued the following statement:
HOUSTON - City of Houston personnel, The Way Home coalition and the Texas Department of Transportation this morning provided free transportation to shelters for residents of the Wheeler homeless encampment as Solid Waste and Health Department employees removed hazardous material from the area in preparation for its use as a bus parking lot.
“The population of the Wheeler encampment under a freeway overpass near Midtown dwindled recently to about 45 people but has continued to attract predators seeking to victimize its very vulnerable population,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “Today the city and its compassionate partners are taking extra steps to place homeless people in shelter beds with their consent and eliminate hazards created by the property’s use as an unofficial outdoor living space.”
“Finding shelter and longer-term housing for homeless people and reducing dangers to all residents of the neighborhood has always been the focus of our work,” the mayor added. “This morning we took another step toward eliminating homelessness in the city of Houston and improving public safety.”Today’s initiative was triggered by:
- The city’s work with TxDOT to convert the property into a bus parking lot and
- The latest finding by city Director of Emergency Medical Services Dr. David Persse that the land under the Wheeler overpass poses a public health nuisance due to the presence of human and animal waste, insect infestations and rotted food.
The Mayor’s Special Assistant on Homelessness Marc Eichenbaum and staff, the Coalition for the Homeless, The Way Home coalition and the Homeless Outreach Team of the Houston Police Department have been working daily with residents of the encampment to move them to shelters.
On Tuesday the city placed notices at the encampment informing residents that the area would no longer be available for their use. In addition to free transportation to shelters, the city provided free storage for many of the residents’ belongings.
“Our work with organizational partners reduced homelessness in the Houston area by more than half in recent years,” Mayor Turner said. “Our work will continue well after today.”