Over 60 volunteers from 13 agencies combed the intersections and overpasses of Midtown on Monday morning, conducting a large-scale, integrated outreach surge to individuals hanging out and/or sleeping on the streets. Starting at 6 a.m., volunteers spent nearly five hours surveying individuals to determine their needs and offer assistance. Organized by Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office, this one-day outreach surge kicks off a six-week long outreach initiative to respond to the changing dynamics of Midtown’s street population.
“We must act, and we must act quickly,” said Mayor Turner. “This is just the first step of a targeted response to holistically help folks who are legitimately homeless and suffering, while going after those who prey on them and are up to no good.”
Surveyed individuals included a mix of homeless individuals, as well as those who are housed, but hangout in the area. All encountered individuals were asked why they spend time in that specific area, and what they needed to not return to the streets. Those that were homeless were assessed for long-term housing, while offered short-term housing at a shelter. All interested individuals were also offered employment opportunities. Mental health, substance abuse and primary healthcare providers were also on hand to connect individuals to needed services.
Although many people received assistance the same day, most of the resources required to actually help them get off of the streets will be coordinated over the course of the next six weeks. Partnering agencies will be meeting regularly to coordinate assistance and outreach efforts to each individual encountered during the surge. The HPD Homeless Outreach Team will be conducting continuous targeted outreach in the area, and the City will be working with the area’s management districts and the Texas Department of Transportation to address litter concerns.
The specific area in Midtown, around Wheeler and San Jacinto, is of particular concern, for it’s a known Kush hotspot, with the largest street population in the City that also threatens the success and stability of over 550 formerly homeless veterans who live in nearby communities.
Organizations collaborating with the Mayor’s Office on this outreach multi-agency initiative include, The Harris Center, Homeless Coalition of Houston/Harris County, City of Houston Health & Human Services Department, City of Houston Solid Waste Department, SEARCH Homeless Services, Star of Hope, Salvation Army, Midtown Management District, U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs, Houston Recovery Center, HPD Homeless Outreach Team, Houston Area Community Services, Healthcare for the Homeless, Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Workforce Commission.