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Homelessness Plan Includes Supervised Encampments, Anti-Panhandling Ordinance

Houston has reduced its homeless population by about half, but the mayor says that’s not enough. The city is announcing a six-point plan to permanently house the homeless.

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Seen here with Mayor Sylvester Turner is Rosenalbo (Ross) Garcia. Garcia was homeless for 40 years, since he was 14. He was recently moved into permanent housing by The Way Home, the coordinated housing initiative.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says the plan includes renewed efforts to provide permanent housing, more shelter beds, restrictions on encampments and an anti-panhandling campaign.

“‘Meaningful change, not spare change.’ You know, the best way to reduce or remove people on the street panhandling is not to give.”

The plan also calls for collaboration with charitable feeding groups and a push for more mental health and substance abuse resources. Six years ago, Houston had a homeless population of more than 8,500. That number is around 3,600 now, with less than a third living on the streets. There are some success stories, like Ross Garcia, who recently moved into permanent housing after being on the streets for 40 years. He became homeless at the age of 14.

“It has a lot to do with just your thinking, because when you’re homeless as long as I’ve been, you think differently. And so I think thoughts now I never really thought about before. Gonna be able, hopefully, to be able to do some things, hopefully.”

Even with all the assistance being offered, there still are people who choose to stay on the streets. The city is identifying locations that can be used as temporary outdoor shelters and for feeding the hungry. Mayor Turner says there needs to be a balance between caring for the homeless and addressing neighborhood safety concerns.

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