Today, several cleanup crews and environmental mitigation specialists reportedly removed debris, food waste and fecal matter from a number of homeless camps under the Highway 59 overpass just south of downtown Houston.
Crews received instructions to work with with the homeless population in the camps to ensure the campers’ personal possessions remained safe and did not get disposed of with the rest of the debris.
During a press conference last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered the cleanup to deal with potential health hazards and number of camps stretching from Chartres Street to Alameda Road, which he said doubled after Hurricane Harvey.
The city is currently locked in a legal battle with attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, who are fighting a city ordinance aiming to forcibly remove the encampments.
Earlier this year, a federal judge placed a restraining order on city officials prohibiting them from removing the camps by force.
At an address prior to the cleanup decision, Turner pointed out the rising crime rates and potential for disease the camps could bring to the surrounding areas:
“What we face here is danger and disease,” Turner said in his press conference. “…this has been the site of two homicides and a stabbing. These camps have become a haven for criminal activity.”
Flashing forward to today’s efforts, the mayor reiterated how he ordered cleanup crews to remove trash and debris only – not to interfere with the camps themselves.
“None of us will rest until we put an end to this hazard,” Turner said. “Even while we continue to offer housing and care to every homeless Houstonian. We can do better. We should do better.”