11/02/18 12:45pm

EVERYONE ORDERED OUT FROM UNDER 59 OVERPASS ON WHEELER, BUS PARKING TO TAKE THEIR PLACE Crews are emptying the Wheeler Ave. tent-stead underneath 59 of all its homeless residents, their belongings, and accumulated residue — Mayor Turner said in a series of tweets today — clearing the way for a new fenced-off bus parking lot to take over the property. Signs announcing the ouster and incoming fences went up Tuesday, said the mayor, and this morning, a METRO bus was on site “to take the 45 or so residents to shelter,” after they “voluntarily accept offers,” to relocate. A month ago the city declared the setup a public health nuisance, reports the Chronicle, a state designation slapped on areas that could be hazardous to those nearby. That’s right around the time Rice bought the office structure one-block north of the encampment, presumably for the so-called Midtown Innovation district it’s now cobbling together from land on both sides of the vacant Sears building it owns as well. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Swamplox inbox

05/15/17 4:45pm

LAWSUIT ALREADY FILED OVER THE TENT BAN THAT TOOK EFFECT FRIDAY This morning the Texas ACLU filed for an injunction on the City’s new ordinances aimed at Houston’s homeless folks and panhandlers, Meagan Flynn reports this afternoon for the Houston Press. The new rules (which among other things ban sleeping in tents or boxes, make it illegal to possess a grill or more than a 3-by-3-by-3-foot box’s worth of stuff in public, and prohibit panhandling close to people, ATMs and payphones) went into effect on Friday. An ACLU staff attorney said in a statement that the rules step away from Houston’s previously “humane approach” to reducing homelessness, adding that “they’re meant to get people into shelters with ‘tough love,’ but the truth is the shelters are full and Houston’s homeless have nowhere else to go.” Flynn points out that the Coalition for the Homeless’s homeless count last year estimated that only 164 shelter beds were vacant on a night when 1,046 people were sleeping on the streets. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo of previously cleared homeless encampment under Louisiana St. Bridge downtown: Christine Wilson

03/03/17 11:30am

Encampment removal at Louisiana St. and Congress Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Among the flurry of in-the-works policies Mayor Turner announced yesterday related to reducing the number of homeless folks in Houston: some staffed bare-bones shelters consisting of at least a fence, a roof and a bathroom, either under overpasses or on private land. Just where would those be set up? The city says they’ll be looking for suggestions from city council members and communities of spots in their own districts where shelters and services might be a good fit.  Per Rebecca Elliott’s report, Turner told the Chronicle this week that he thinks it’s “important for people who are saying ‘we don’t want them here’ to join in with us in helping to identify acceptable locations.”

Here’s a list of other plans floated yesterday, none of which yet come with an expected price tag:


Scrounging for Change
02/28/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD ON THE EIGHTH WONDER’S EMERGENCY HOUSING LEGACY Astrodome“We’ve already got a built structure that has housed people in distress before. We are already paying millions of dollars a year in upkeep for a useless building. Showers, bathrooms, food prep, these services all already exist in this space. We’ve got a round peg, let’s just fit it into the round hole: The Astrodome is the perfect building to house our homeless!” [toasty, commenting on Mansion Flats Reincarnated; What a Homeless Campground Might Cost; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Astrodome: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

09/20/16 1:15pm

SEARCH House of Tiny Treasures, 2323 Francis St., Third Ward, Houston, 7700

Yesterday was opening day for SEARCH’s second House of Tiny Treasures, the organization’s child-education-slash-daycare operation. The new structure at the corner of Francis St. and currently-being-Emancipated Dowling forms a Francis-facing U around the land last employed as a playground following decades of vacancy. On the back side of the block is the crumbling former salon building which was briefly turned into a pre-integration time capsule living room as part of that 2013 Beauty Box art installation; east on Stuart St. is the spot where the ZeRow solar rowhouse landed after it went to Washington:


Dowling Filling In
06/13/16 5:00pm

New Headquarters for Search Homeless Services, 2015 Congress Ave., East Downtown

The new home of homeless services center SEARCH opened at 2015 Congress Ave. this morning, next to the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen and across 59 from Minute Maid Park. The 27,105-sq.-ft. facility’s design has been greened up since last summer‘s pass-around of renderings for the space — in addition to the color on the exterior walls, renewable energy company and regular grocery-store-front proselytizers Green Mountain Energy footed the bill for some solar paneling and other energy-efficient upgrades. Operations at the organization’s fifties-mod space on McGowen St. (which got that unintentional contemporary update to its facade back in 2014) will end around June 24th. 

Below is a recent-but-still-mid-construction look at the new building from the corner of Franklin and St. Emanuel streets, showing the structure in place across Congress from the Cheek-Neal Coffee building, (which, unlike the homeless services building, appears to be explicitly spared by some of TxDOT’s potential future freeway expansion plans):


Congress at St. Emanuel
05/30/14 11:00am

Homeless Camp Outside City Hall, HoustonThe number of homeless people living without shelter in Harris County and Fort Bend County dropped by more than 50 percent between 2011 and this year, according to the latest figures released yesterday by the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless. The overall homeless population — which includes those housed in shelters — stands at 5,351, according to the organization’s latest count, which was conducted on January 30th. That’s down a similarly respectable 37 percent from the 2011 figure, and a 16 percent drop from the numbers found in 2013.

The report goes on to break down those numbers into subpopulations, as illustrated in this chart:


Down for the Count
09/13/13 11:00am

HIGHLY VISIBLE BILLBOARD REMINDS HOUSTON DRIVERS OF THE INVISIBILITY OF HOMELESSNESS You can’t miss it: Just south of Downtown, this pristine billboard went up recently above the northbound feeder of I-45. Its lonesome assertion, “Even the pigeons don’t see me,” is attributed to the “voice of the homeless.” What gives? Glasstire’s Paula Newton explains: “[I]t’s meant to raise awareness about homelessness. The billboard is a project by artist Jessica Crute in conjunction with a group show at Deborah Colton Gallery called Collective Identity. Crute [is] president and founder of a young non-profit organization Voice of the Homeless.” [Glasstire] Photo: Glasstire

05/07/12 11:41pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PLEASE HELP THE HOMELESS — TO BUY WHAT I’M SELLING “. . . I characterize the problem as a social blight and attribute my interest, concern, and thought toward it primarily because the long-term homeless are not engaging in society as consumers. They are a dead weight. I cannot sell them things, and the people that give them things are made less able to afford to buy my things. Homelessness is a problem because it interferes with the fulfillment of my greed.” [TheNiche, commenting on The Secret Homeless Caves Under Downtown]

05/04/12 12:54pm

THE SECRET HOMELESS CAVES UNDER DOWNTOWN Officers on HPD’s Homeless Outreach Team show teevee reporter Robert Arnold a secret den favored by a portion of Downtown’s homeless population — tucked under the Louisiana St. bridge over Buffalo Bayou. Dubbed “the caves,” the not-tall-enough-to-stand-in space snakes along the bridge, further back than Arnold’s flashlight can shine. Layers of occupied and unoccupied sleeping bags, clothing, and trash cover the surface, and Arnold describes the scent as “thick and unrelenting.” Arnold’s report doesn’t specify how many people are living in the warren-like hideaway, but from the pictures he shows, it’s easy to imagine dozens. “We’ve had whole families in here,” explains police sergeant Stephen Wick. [Click2Houston]

02/02/12 5:45pm

ATLANTA HUTS FOR HOUSTON’S HOMELESS At yesterday’s meeting new city council member Jack Christie distributed descriptions of prefab huts and “low riders” produced by an Atlanta organization called Mad Housers, suggesting that similar structures — privately funded — could be used in Houston as they are in Atlanta: as shelters for homeless people. “You don’t see the sleeping bags out there, the newspapers,” Christie told reporter Chris Moran afterward. “These have a lock on the door so you have a sense of security.” The huts, which the Atlanta organization stresses are not intended as permanent housing, measure 6 ft. by 8 ft. with 12-ft. ceilings, and feature a sleeping loft, a locking door, and a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking. The “low riders” are 4 ft. by 8 ft. with only 4-ft. ceilings; they’re meant to allow residents to keep their shelters on the down-low, below vegetation lines or other screening objects where they wouldn’t want them to be too conspicuous. These smaller units come with a separate 4x4x4 storage box. [Houston Politics; Mad Housers] Photo: Mad Housers

11/07/08 10:53am

DOWNTOWN WAITING ROOM Architect Lawrence Speck of Page Southerland Page, architect of the Christ Church Cathedral’s John S. Dunn Outreach Center at Prairie and San Jacinto: “We went to other places that were serving the homeless in Houston and spoke with people. Gosh, they have all the time in the world. They’re very happy to talk to you. One thing that we learned that had not been handled well in Austin was that a whole lot of their lives are about waiting. They’re waiting for the meal; they’re waiting for an appointment; they’re waiting for friends to show up; and there’s no place to hang out. They are constantly being moved or jostled. So on the north side of Dunn center, we built a lot of space for just hanging out. There’s a very deep arcade—about 12 feet deep. It’s got ceiling fans. It’s shady. It’s cool. Then there’s a little buffer of green space, which is very, very important because that makes them not feel like they’re on the sidewalk. . . . Another thing that’s good about the arcade is that it’s on the church’s turf, and so the hotels and the condos and the other office buildings down there feel much more comfortable with the homeless people being in their neighborhood than they did before.” [Architectural Record]

07/22/08 3:42pm

WHERE TO PUT MAGNOLIA GLEN If the city will cough up $4 million, developers will turn a former temporary UH dorm next to Fingers furniture on the north side of the Gulf Freeway into a 220-unit housing project for Houstonians who are currently homeless. Mayor White supports the Magnolia Glen project, but district councilman James Rodriguez and some residents of nearby Eastwood don’t like the location. “Former Councilman Gordon Quan, a member of the blue-ribbon commission, said . . . money helps determine where sites can be found. ‘People say, “Why don’t you put this in River Oaks or Memorial?” We couldn’t afford the land in River Oaks. But we are cognizant that these need to be spread around,’ he said.” [Houston Chronicle]

07/07/08 10:24am

NEW SHORT-TERM HOUSING FOR 40 VETERANS, SOUTH OF THE MED CENTER There are an estimated 3,600 homeless veterans in the Houston area, and only 250 available beds.Eight veterans already have moved into their new quarters in the previously vacant apartment complex in the 7300 block of Fannin. Applications to fill up the 14 units still are being accepted.” [Houston Chronicle]