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WATCH: Houston Cleans Homeless Encampments Under Highway 59

“The hope is to make sure that it’s clean and that we’re trying to prevent any potential health hazards that may exist,” says Tanya Makany-Rivera with the Mayor’s Office

Minute Maid is across the street yet under the Highway 59 bridge the smell of human waste is overpowering. Along with private contractors, workers from the Solid Waste Department are completing their two day effort to bring the homeless encampments up to code.

The Houston Health Department declared areas under the downtown bridge a “public health nuisance.” So with the assistance of five city departments and 13 nonprofit groups, workers place personal belongings in plastic containers, remove trash, and sanitize the area under the Highway 59 bridge from Caroline Street to Almeda Road, and Ruiz Street to Preston.

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, Tanya Makany-Rivera, said it’s important to make public space safe for everyone. “The hope is to make sure that it’s clean and that we’re trying to prevent any potential health hazards that may exist,” she said.

Marcus Arvie has been homeless for a couple of years, and is thrilled the city is cleaning up. “I think that’s great that they’re doing such a good job about this because I’ve seen a lot of people catch hepatitis C, TB, you know just by being on the ground, putting things in their mouth, going to trash cans, eating, Arvie said.

With a temporary restraining order blocking the city’s anti-encampment ordinance, the displacement of the ever growing homeless population under the bridge will only be long enough for the area to be cleaned. 

Makany-Rivera said this is the second cleanup under the 59 bridge this year, and that anytime a public health emergency is declared, they’ll be back.

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