Houston-area program helps provide housing for the homeless
HOUSTON (AP) — Joseph passes mugs sitting on shelves and worn family photographs as he walks into his new Second Ward apartment and turns on a small television in the corner to fill his quiet home with chatter.
The Houston Chronicle reports these are luxuries the disabled veteran hasn’t had since he lost his job two years ago. He’s been chronically homeless, living at an encampment near Midtown.
“It was a long road, two years that I was out there. I’ve seen a whole lot, been through a whole lot,” Joseph said Friday, three months after the city shut down the encampment on Wheeler, displacing dozens of people. Joseph declined to give his last name, saying it may hinder his job opportunities.
The encampment was cleared out in November after being declared a public health nuisance, filled with human waste, insects and rodents. Neighbors frequently complained, saying the encampment served as a magnet for crime and noting that four people had been murdered near the site over the last two years.
About 73 people had taken up shelter there and about 30 were there when the city shut the site down Nov. 2. While most of those displaced accepted shelter provided by Coalition for the Homeless and other nonprofits, four refused and 16 found help elsewhere or left, according to Marc Eichenbaum, the mayor’s special assistant for homeless initiatives.
Before the eviction, Joseph met with a social worker at the camp and sought help with the The Way Home, a Houston-area program that provides housing for the homeless.
He lives at New Hope Housing and will pay 30 percent of his annual income to stay in the apartments. Residents who do not work pay 30 percent of what they get from disability or veteran benefits, Eichenbaum said.
“People don’t see the homeless being housed; they only see the homeless still on the streets or those that are becoming homeless,” Eichenbaum said Friday at the housing facility.
Mayor Sylvester Turner handed Joseph a welcome mat printed with the word ‘Home.’
“It’s about providing housing and opportunity because along with housing comes opportunity and so, Joseph, I just want to say ‘Man, I am so proud to be here, so proud of the step that you have taken,’ ” Turner said. “I didn’t come to give you a proclamation or anything like that, I just came to give you something else.”
Turner noted the value of investing in people like Joseph.
“We have so many people who are living on our streets, bridges you name it, these are people and they have such great potential,” Turner said. “They represent who we are as a people and to be able to transition them from the street into a home, it makes the difference and I could not be more proud.”
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com