The video is hard to watch: a woman in broad daylight, using the restroom in plain view.
“She had a blanket and some wipes I think in her hand,” said business owner Kayla Ramsay. “She put everything on the car and just squatted down.”
Ramsay, a ticket broker near Wheeler and Highway 59, says this happens so often, she’s even received a citation for it.
Fortunately, the city told her she didn’t have to worry about the citation after they determined it was a homeless person relieving his or herself on her property.
But the problem only highlights the tense situation developing between the city of Houston and the ACLU over growing homeless camps.
The city passed an ordinance against camping and panhandling, but the human rights organization filed a lawsuit to stop them.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he wants to ban bulking furniture and tents, as they pose a public health problem.
The ACLU says the homeless shouldn’t be punished for a situation they can’t control.
“Unsheltered homeless people in Houston are on the street involuntarily,” said Trisha Trigilio, of the ACLUS of Texas. “Our emergency shelter beds are full and these people truly have no place to go.”
The city said the homeless camp is not only a potential health crisis in the making, but is raising crime in the area.
A resident nearby caught a deadly shooting on surveillance camera recently. Many say enough is enough, and Mayor Turner acknowledged it is getting worse.
“It’s awful. We come to work, there’s feces everywhere,” says Amanda Castillo, who said she’s frustrated with the homeless camps. “There’s clothing, there’s people sleeping on our property.”
Turner said he hopes a federal judge will see the city is not criminalizing homelessness, but an effort to make sure this doesn’t become a public health threat.