“I want to separate the people who are homeless from these encampments,” Turner said during the address. “These encampments are not doing anyone any good.”
Turner said homeless people are not the problems, saying, rather, it is the encampments themselves supporting lawlessness and increased criminal behaviors.
According to Turner, the encampments are a danger to both the public and the homeless people who reside within them.
Although the city worked to address the camps in the past, they say their hands are currently tied because of a court order injunction against their efforts handed down by a federal judge.
Back in April, the city passed an ordinance banning temporary structures, tents and outdoor cooking devices as part of a six-point plan for combating homelessness.
Turner and his team said they aren’t trying to criminalize the homeless, rather would like to provide housing and reduce lawlessness, which he says remains a threat to the public.
“The goal was to provide housing for 500 people who are living on the streets,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at the press conference regarding the six-point plan.
Turner said the city is close to providing those homes and believes Houston will be able to meet his goal within six months.
In the meantime, and in wake of the most recent homicide at one of the sites, officials say the city is doing all it can to limit the dangers surrounding the camps; Mayor Turner said the city will work within the court order that is in place.
The court order reportedly blocks the city from evicting the homeless or depriving them of their temporary shelters, but it does allow the city to monitor and address the encampments for cleaning.
City efforts are reportedly set to clean up both sites again within the next week, when everyone in the encampment will be asked to leave for removal of trash, dirt and other health hazards.
After the clean-up, per the injunction ultimately awarded on behalf of the homeless Houstonians to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the city cannot ask the people not to return.
The city said it is committed to addressing the issue of homeless in Houston, but Mayor Turner said he fears things will only get worse as long as the court order is in place and the encampments remain.
This is a developing story.