The following information was presented at the April 4 MPNA Meeting.
In our continuing efforts to keep neighborhood concerns regarding the Wheeler encampment before the Mayor and his staff, MPNA submitted a letter to Mayor Turner, with a copy to our CM Dwight Boykins, Tuesday, April 3 thanking the city for their clean up and enforcement efforts. Please see the attached letter.
MPNA contacted Marc Eichenbaum, in the Mayor’s Office on Homeless Initiatives, for information regarding current efforts by the city. He shared the following:
- Mayor Turner and his staff continue to work toward opening additional lower barrier shelters.
- The Mayor's Office on Homeless Initiatives is seeking funds to open a lower barrier shelter as soon as possible.
- Mayor Turner plans to re-purpose the area beneath SH 59.
- HPD will continue to enforce removal of excess property under 59 on a regular basis. Police officers will enforce, but additional city staff and vehicles are required to bag and tag goods that will be removed to storage for individuals to claim at a later time.
- During the most recent clean up (March 23) and excess property enforcement (March 30), 80 bags of belongings were put into storage and nine tons of debris were removed from the area.
MPNA also requested an update and perspective on the Wheeler Encampment from Marilyn L. Brown, President and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, homelesshouston.org. She provided this overview:
The Coalition for the Homeless knows that permanent housing programs combined with supportive services is the answer to homelessness. The Way Home has housed more than 12,000 homeless individuals since 2012 with incredibly high rates of retention. The Coalition for the Homeless agrees that encampments are NOT acceptable, suitable living environments for the safety and health of homeless individuals NOR for those living in the neighborhoods near them.
In conjunction with the City of Houston's most recent cleanup, partners of The Way Home provided outreach and engagement to those living at the Wheeler encampment. Here's what we found: 60% of the individuals living in the encampment were found to be chronically homeless and qualify for The Way Home's Permanent Supportive Housing programs. Most of these have had more than one housing assessment. This is why:
We know the solution is Permanent Supportive Housing but we acknowledge that the path to get there can take time. We don't want people to languish in an encampment while they are working to get into Housing. The Coalition supports the creation of some type of "bridge" shelter that would be appealing to homeless clients living in encampments, and give them a safe place to stay that is not an encampment while they work through the housing process.
- The process from assessment to move-in involves several steps including obtaining identification, completing paperwork, verifying eligibility for Permanent Supportive Housing, finding a safe, affordable unit, and being accepted by the property.
- This process is time consuming and can be overwhelming to the homeless individual. This means we often lose them in the middle of the process and have to start over.
- Background checks are also barriers to housing for chronically homeless individuals, leading to longer amounts of time and multiple attempts between applying and moving into housing. This speaks to the complexities of working with this population.
Consider making a difference by contributing to www.meaningfulchange.org where your dollars will go toward providing permanent housing programs with supportive services.