Homeless people are making their way back onto the streets of Houston as the city recovers from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey.
“Many of our streets’ homeless have made the choice to go back to the street,” Marilyn Brown, president and CEO of the Houston Coalition for the Homeless said.
The streets in the downtown area where most of the homeless people live are no longer flooded, Brown said. The Coalition’s day shelter is operating on a seven-day schedule and offering a light breakfast, lunch and dinner so anyone can go and have their needs met.
“In any circumstance, the homeless clients are always our most vulnerable population,” Brown said. “And, coming out of this, they remain so.”
Prior to Harvey’s landfall, Brown said the coalition worked hard to encourage the homeless community to seek shelter during the storm.
“All of our emergency shelters, including our youth shelter, made a pledge to not turn anybody away,” Brown said. “Many of them did take advantage of that, so they were safe during the storm.”
So far Brown said that city officials have been “leading the way” in the recovery efforts.
They’re “most concerned about people’s safety and health,” Brown said. “Those living unsheltered specifically.”
Many homeless people are trying to reestablish themselves in the same areas they were before the storm, Brown said.
“The areas where they’ve slept were flooded,” Brown said. “So, there’s debris, there’s whatever gets left behind when the waters recede.”
The biggest challenge going forward is finding a “good stock of affordable housing,” Brown said.
“We didn’t have enough affordable housing before, and we’re assessing now, but it appears some of the stock that we did have, some of the inventory has been damaged by the storm,” Brown said. “So, we’ll have even less for probably more people.
“Many of our folks that were doubled-up or living in precarious situations are now finding themselves displaced,” Brown said. “We’re working very hard to try to find them alternate, satisfactory, stable housing.”
The coalition received about $400,000 in donations before the storm hit to help those experiencing homelessness, Brown said.
“The generosity of the people around the country is incredible,” Brown said. “There’s been an awful lot of money that’s been donated.”
Still, long-term solutions are dependent on the location and building of “new, accessible, satisfactory, affordable housing,” Brown said.
“That will take an investment of money by developers who are willing to do that,” Brown said.
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