Mayor Annise Parker took part in Houston Registry Week, a week-long campaign aimed at getting 2,500 of the city's chronic homeless off the streets by 2016.
Parker spoke with those living on the streets in downtown Houston on Tuesday morning.
"It's fine for us to sit in an office and say this is what we need to do," said Parker. "It's better if we go out and say these are the resources we have and then have those conversations with people who are actually homeless -- what is it going to take for me to get you over the hurdle?"
Parker said helping the chronically homeless costs about $103 million each year. National studies show that chronically homeless only account for 25 percent of a major city's homeless population but use 75 percent of its resources.
"I can build a fancy hotel and house the homeless in a fancy hotel for that amount of money. How do we solve the problem instead of just continuing to spend these huge amounts of money," said Parker.
About 8,700 homeless people live in Harris and Fort Bend Counties.
Houston Registry Week is part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, a grassroots movement of over 175 communities to find and place chronically homeless individuals into 100,000 homes across the nation. As part of the campaign, volunteers are using a 33-item questionnaire to gather targeted information on the individual’s health status, institutional history (jail, prison, hospital, and military), length of homelessness, patterns of shelter or mission use, and previous housing situations.
“Registry Week is an exciting opportunity to create a comprehensive database of people living on our streets and in our shelters, enabling us, as a community, to know the homeless by name, to understand their stories, and to identify their needs,” said Neal Rackleff, director of the City’s Housing and Community Development Department. “The information gathered is crucial to our ability to place our most vulnerable into permanent housing with supportive services to break the cycle of homelessness.”
Houston Registry Week is an initiative of the city of Houston in partnership with the Harris County Housing Authority, SEARCH Homeless Services, The Beacon, Coalition for the Homeless, Houston Housing Authority, Continuum of Care and other community partners.
“The Houston Housing Authority is committed to fighting homelessness in Houston and we are glad to work with great community partners that share our vision,” said Tory Gunsolley, Houston Housing Authority’s President & CEO. “By working with community partners we were able to get 101 homeless veterans housed in 100 days, and with this campaign we will be able to do even more to help Houston’s homeless receive the housing and supportive services that they need.”
Parker is scheduled to present the findings from Houston Registry Week immediately following the regularly scheduled City Council meeting on May 15.