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Harris County Sheriff’s Office Addresses Suburban Homelessness

The Sheriff’s Office has launched the Homeless Outreach Team.


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Sheriff Ron Hickman
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman (center) stands in front of the new van for the Homeless Outreach Team.

If you’re commuting from Houston’s suburbs, you probably know homelessness is not only a problem in the city. Panhandlers can be found at any intersection on the outskirts of Houston.

To address homelessness in Harris County, Sheriff Ron Hickman has established the Homeless Outreach Team, or HOT.

It consists of a 2016 Ford Transit van, a four-wheel drive off-road UTV vehicle and two deputies.

Hickman spoke outside the offices of Northwest Assistance Ministries, one of the groups the sheriff’s office is partnering with for the initiative.

“All too often, the homeless are subject to criminal citation and arrest for crimes such as trespass, loitering and solicitation from the roadway,” Hickman said. “And clearly, there should be better solutions than putting people in jail for being homeless.”  

 At this point in time, the outreach team operates along the FM 1960 corridor in northwest Harris County. The deputies hand out water and toiletries to homeless people they encounter.

“And then when they come back the second and third time, those guys become more trusting,” said Kristyn Stillwell with Champions 4 Hope, a homeless ministry. She rides along with the outreach team.

Since HOT started going out two weeks ago, 19 homeless people have been placed in permanent housing.

“So I feel like it’s making it safer for our homeless and for our community we’ll see less people out there panhandling and doing things they shouldn’t do to make ends meet,” Stillwell said.

Sheriff Hickman said HOT, which is modeled after homeless outreach teams in Houston and San Antonio, was initiated by Lt. Robert Henry.

He hopes to eventually expand the program to other areas in Harris County.

At last count, the Coalition for the Homeless found 4,609 people without homes in Greater Houston.

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