What started as only a few people camped out beneath U.S. Highway 59 at Wheeler Avenue a year ago has evolved into an encampment with around 50 tents, and the residents of Houston’s upscale Museum Park neighborhood are fed up.
“Right here, there are beer bottles, liquor bottles, used toilet paper, feminine napkins, flies all over human crap. I mean, it’s disgusting,” said local business owner Kayla Ramsey in an interview with Channel 2 Investigates.
Trash and human waste are a problem in the area. Ramsey went on to tell Channel 2 that people from the homeless camp, which people are calling the Wheeler Camp, regularly defecate outside her business.
One resident reports catching people urinating or defecating outside the front door of their home on security footage. The homeless perpetrator then rang the doorbell and smashed the security camera while waiting for the homeowner to answer the door; their knocks went unanswered.
Another member of the Wheeler Camp pulled a handgun on Channel 2 reporters who were looking for an interview.
Museum Park residents also complain of the constant panhandling they encounter whenever they emerge from their houses.
Homeless camps like this one are banned by the city according to an ordinance passed by the Houston City Council in April. The Houston Police Department was authorized to arrest people setting up tents or shelters in public places and fine them up to $500 until the ordinance was blocked just days later by a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit claims the ban is unconstitutional and it violates the homeless’ rights. A temporary restraining order was enacted by a federal judge in August, blocking law enforcement from upholding the ban.
In the meantime, the Wheeler Camp continues growing, and Museum Park residents remain powerless.
“We keep our homes clean and we have the right to a livable neighborhood where we don’t have to worry every time we walk outside,”said Museum Park resident Shawn McDermott.