Midtown Houston takes unique approach to addressing homelessness

The inability to afford housing is the driving force in homelessness, but the reasons someone is without the necessary funds are varied. A single mom might not make enough to cover monthly expenses. A veteran might be unable to find work because of substance abuse problems. Someone else might have mental health issues or lack the necessary skills to get and retain gainful employment.

Having a roof overhead can get someone off the streets. Housing with supportive services can help ensure they stay off the streets.

An $8 million investment

As part of its affordable housing program, the Midtown Redevelopment Authority (MRA) partners with several nonprofits to provide multi-family housing with wrap-around services. Much like the process that has resulted in hundreds of new single-family affordable homes in Houston’s Greater Third Ward, MRA provides free land or a financial grant to help with construction costs.

Among the success stories is 2222 Cleburne, once a former brownfield. MRA purchased the land, cleaned up the site, and then gave it to The Montrose Center, which built the 112-unit Law Harrington Center for LGBTQ-affirming seniors who might otherwise be unable to afford housing. The center also offers social services and a primary health care clinic. With MRA’s help, Reward Third Ward built 72 multi-family units specifically for single moms. MRA has also worked with Pastor Rudy Rasmus and his Temenos Community Development Corporation, an organization with a track record of providing permanent supportive housing since 2006. Currently, MRA is working with New Hope Housing on a project for another 120 units for seniors just east of Emancipation Blvd. and Gray St. MRA Real Estate Manager Todd Edwards estimates the authority’s investment in these projects totals about $8 million.

Outreach AND enforcement

“We recognize that providing affordable housing is not just about building new homes,” said Edwards. “It requires a holistic approach that includes supportive services, collaboration with other organizations, and addressing the root causes of homelessness.” At the street level, MRA collaborates with the Houston Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team and SEARCH Homeless Services, which has an outreach team dedicated to the Midtown area. In the parks, Midtown security officers have outreach training and can facilitate connections to appropriate services.

Midtown’s approach of outreach combined with enforcement is unique compared to similar organizations in Houston. “Everyone provides a piece of the puzzle, and it works. It is cost-effective. It is more effective than incarceration. It is just the right thing to do,” said Midtown Houston Public Safety Coordinator Jaime Giraldo.

Anyone who is homeless or knows of someone homeless and in need of services may call 281-994-9613 or email ldardin@searchhouston.org. More information about MRA’s affordable housing program is available here.