Hurricane Harvey

Harvey’s Impact on Houston’s Homeless Community

A year after the storm, we check in with recovery efforts for the homeless population in the Houston region.

File Photo – Tents set up at a homeless encampment at the intersection of Highway 59 and Caroline Street on April 21, 2017.

A year after Hurricane Harvey, we’re still learning more about the impact of the storm on local communities.

While a new study further suggests recovery remains slow for many in hard-hit areas in the region, Houston’s unsheltered homeless population also received its first uptick, since 2011. The unsheltered homeless rate was declining for years, prior to Harvey, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Marliyn Brown, the Coalition’s President and CEO, said the group’s annual survey at the beginning of the year revealed an additional 500 unsheltered homeless people.

“When we asked people, ‘What caused your homelessness,’ 18 percent said it was a result of Hurricane Harvey,” said Brown. The Coalition found 258 unsheltered homeless people in the Houston region were homeless as a direct result from Hurricane Harvey.

Brown believes they will be able to catch back up with the downward trend, because their housing units weren’t as affected by the storm as they originally feared. She said they’re now back on track, to housing about 100 people per month. But, she said, long-term ramifications of the storm remain unclear.

“I’m not really sure when we’ll ever know,” said Brown. “It’s not just a one-time, ‘We’ll get you back on your feet and you’ll do well.’ So, I think as far as our system, and our inventory of units, and being able to identify and help people: we’re back on track. But, I think we have a new set of conditions that are affecting people in a different way that will continue to stay with us… This is a new trauma that adds to the lack of ability to stabilize.”

Brown said every large city in Texas had an increase in homelessness this year.

The Texas Homeless Network estimates about 590 people in the state experienced homelessness, as a direct result from Harvey.

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Allison Lee

Allison Lee

Senior Producer

Allison Lee is Senior Producer for the local Morning Edition broadcast, and a feature reporter for Houston Public Media. Her radio stories have also appeared on Morning Edition, Marketplace, Here & Now, Weekend Edition Sunday, Weekend All Things Considered, and Texas Standard. Prior to moving to Houston in 2016, Allison was Video Producer at MSNBC, and a...

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