City of Houston workers escorted by officers from the Houston Police Department (HPD) started cleaning up homeless encampments on Friday as an ordinance that bans them went into effect.
Sheldon Theragood, an officer that works for HPD’s Homeless Outreach Team, was there.
Theragood knows most of the people that live in one of Houston’s biggest encampments, at the intersection of Highway 59 and Caroline Street and he told Houston Public Media he had a very clear mission on this first day.
“I try to calm them down, you know, and I’ll be there and tell them: ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK, but this is what we have to do, you know, this is what’s going on’,” Theragood explained.
As City workers cleaned up the site, James Harris told us he would take down his tent, as the ordinance mandates, “but I don’t want to because I ain’t got nowhere to go. It’s just the truth, I ain’t got nowhere to go.”
Others understand the new rule, like a man who just goes by the name Alabama. “If you smoke in there, you catch on fire, it gonna fall on, it gonna kill you, so it’s no wrong with them saying: ‘Take ’em down’.”
Many people at this site look up to Fatima Dorsey and some call her Mama.
Dorsey noted Police officers have told her they are worried about criminal activity happening inside the tents.
“Ya’ll have excessive drug activity and we have undercovers watching ya’ll from everywhere, but we can’t see what we need to see cause of the damn tents. So, ya’ll gonna get rid of them tents,” Dorsey said she has been told by some officers and also by members of outreach teams who have spent the past few weeks informing the homeless group at that particular location about the ordinance.
An official with the City acknowledged one of the goals of the ordinance is to improve public safety at these sites.