Houston approaches homelessness with new strategies and compassion
You see them on the streets all the time, often passing them without even noticing––a man pushing the shopping cart full of personal belongings, someone sleeping on the doorstep of an empty building, a makeshift campsite in the bushes or under a freeway overpass.
Houston, we have a problem and its name is homelessness. To be fair, the issue of people living on the streets is nowhere near as troubling as in other cities. Houston doesn’t even make the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s top 10 list of cities with the highest homeless population. New York, at the top of the list, has more than 73,000 homeless, and Los Angeles ranks second with nearly 44,000.
According to recent population estimates, the current number of homeless in our area is about 3,600––less than half of the 8,500 counted six years ago. It’s a good sign that many of the systems in place to help the homeless are having a measurable effect. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the effort must continue, but with compassion and common sense.
The mayor’s six-point plan includes:
- The Way Home program to provide permanent, supportive housing;
- Adding more beds in existing shelters;
- Cleaning up encampments and enforcing a new ordinance prohibiting tents on public property;
- Collaborating with charitable groups that provide food to the homeless;
- A media campaign to discourage the public from giving to panhandlers; and
- Lobbying the state legislature for more funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment program.
“The Midtown Houston community has been a part of not only the conversation, but has worked continuously to participate in the solution as well,” says Ben Robles, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “We welcome positive feedback from the community on how we can expand our already extensive efforts to keep Midtown Houston clean and safe.”
Additional Security Solutions in Midtown
As was announced in the Public Safety Alert dated 12-28-2016 Midtown hired S.E.A.L. Security Solutions as part of a 6 month pilot program that began at the end of 2016. This is an additional patrol service with two officers and canines in marked vehicles that are on the lookout for suspicious activity. They also help to educate the community on best practices when it comes to your personal safety. Reports provided at the February evening Board of Directors meeting show that they have already made a positive impact in the community. Look for S.E.A.L. and our other law enforcement agencies at the upcoming Safety Saturday event.
The Houston Police Department is still your first line of defense in the event of an emergency. We still maintain Harris County Precinct 7 Constables with six deputies. S.E.A.L. Security does not replace law enforcement – they are an additional patrol service.
Check the Helpful Phone Numbers for contact information not only for S.E.A.L. but for other local law enforcement and patrolling agencies. You may want to have these numbers saved in your phone.
Midtown Houston invites you to learn more about our public safety initiatives by signing up for our newsletter to receive public safety alerts and attending our monthly meetings or HPD monthly PIP meetings (Central Division; everything west of Louisiana St.; South Central is everything east of Louisiana St.) or the Chief’s Citywide PIP meetings Together, we can make Midtown Houston the safest neighborhood to live, work, and play.