Austin's Homeless Issues are a Cautionary Tale for Houston


California's homeless crisis gets most of the national attention these days, but Texas cities are dealing with similar issues. Most notable is Austin, where last year's move by the city council to relax laws against homeless camping and panhandling has led to complaints about increased crime and violence.

Houston has had its own issues with growing homeless encampments in recent years, but leaders and organizations here are trying to avoid a repeat of what is happening in Austin. "I think we're aided by the fact that Houston really stepped up its efforts to address the homeless problem years ago under Mayor Parker with an initiative called The Way Home," says Bob Eury, with the downtown revitalization group Central Houston. "We've housed in our city over 18,000 homeless people since 2013."

Eury tells KTRH that the most recent homeless population count in the greater Houston area (from two years ago) was about 3,900, which is far less than cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Nevertheless, he knows it is still a problem here, and one without an easy solution. "We will always home homeless people," he says. "I'd like to think that we can house everybody and I think we could, but there will still be people turning to the streets one way or another."

While local leaders and groups like Central Houston work on a solution, Eury believes we should not follow Austin's lead of simply allowing more camping and panhandling. "We need to try to figure out the best way to have (the homeless) in some sort of more permanent shelter or housing situation, instead of basically accepting that we're just going to let them live on the streets," he says.


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