Houston’s homeless react to injunction against ordinance, housing opportunities

HOUSTON - When the news came down that a federal court had temporarily stopped the city from enforcing their homeless ordinance, folks in Midtown, for the most part, were a little relieved.

“Everybody out here, they're really glad about that. They had nowhere else to go so they ended up here under the bridge where they could continue to get shelter,” said Eugene Stroman, a fellow plaintiff in the ACLU case objecting to the ordinance.

“The news just couldn't be any better for me, because now we're starting to see a system that is respecting the rights of the homeless community which is all that we've been asking for all along,” said homeless advocate, and witness in the case, Shere Dore.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner put out a statement saying he is disappointed by the order, and that the city will “continue to work to find affordable housing options for our neighbors in need.”

“All they looking for is some help so they can get out of this situation. You know no one wants to stay here, but right now this is a temporary situation that people are stuck in,” said Stroman.

Who can blame them?  The city concluded the area Stroman lives in was contaminated and a public health hazard.

And after a year of paperwork, interviews and assessments, Stroman is getting out soon.

But some worry housing alone isn't sufficient.

“If those individuals are not given any mental help; a case worker to check on them, so on and so forth, they're going to be right back on the streets because they've been conditioned,” Dore said.

But for all the talk of permanent housing, what does it look like? One former Howard Johnson motel off I-45 has been transformed.

“This is a permanent supportive housing program. We move them into an efficiency, which is an SRO, a single room occupancy, where they are placed here permanently. Case management is available to every client that is housed here,” said Kenneth Debon with Star of Hope.

On “move in day,” the excitement is contagious.

“This is an awesome feeling, it really is. I mean I’ve got a bed to sleep in a lot of people out there don't,” said Franklin Pierce, who’s lived on the streets since 1997. Only after his brother died of hypothermia earlier this year did he seek out assistance.

Some people who lived in encampments -- like the ones being focused on -- have words for those still waiting in line.

“Once you do the initial paperwork you just got to be persistent in keeping in touch and staying out of trouble,” said Dewayne Webb.

“You got to jump through hoops, OK. Keep appointments, keep going to these people, they are going to help you,” Pierce explained.

So while the fight for right to use public property with shelter continues, the solution the city, county and organizations like the Star of Hope and Search Homeless Services are working hard for continues to welcome our neighbors home.

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