Homeless population increasing at US 59 overpass at San Jacinto

HOUSTON – Just below the U.S. 59 overpass at San Jacinto, neighbors say there's a problem that's only getting worse.

Irish Williams, who lives in the area said, "It's a big problem, a big problem. Because you don't know who's nice and who's not."

The issue at hand for many neighbors here, is a growing homeless population they say has increased in the recent weeks.

That, along with the amount of garbage littered across the area.

It's also raised safety concerns for business owners like Julia Maldonado whose office is only a few hundred yards away.

Julia Maldonado, an attorney in the area explained, "They're harassing the people coming to the gas station, they're harassing us here in the parking, lot of my clients so it's becoming a big issue."

According to HPD, they have gotten calls from people about the camp under the freeway and they're working with TXDot to resolve the issue.

The mayor's office also says enforcement has been stepped up in the area, but a big concern they have, is substance abuse, including Kush, among some of the people here.

That's something many in this area are worried about.

"Especially if it's to do with anything with drugs, there's going to be an increase of crime," said Williams.

Although, the problem is clear for residents living here, what isn't is the solution.

Many are now counting on the city to figure that out sooner rather than later.

Williams mentioned, "What we need to do to help them. Not just keep pushing them away or pushing them into the inner city."

"I don't know what the city can do, but it needs to be addressed and be addressed soon," said Maldonado.

The City of Houston issued the following statement:

"The City is well aware of the concentration of Kush users at the TXDOT property located under 59 at Main and Fannin Streets and working hard to address the issue.

"Through earlier HPD and Park Ranger efforts, 7 previously identified Kush hotspots are now relatively clear.

"Although the overall number of Kush users have decreased, a sizable, highly concentrated and visible population of Kush users is now located under 59 in Midtown.

"The City is actively working to address the situation and is concentrating an array of resources, including:

  • Flooding the area with outreach services, with continuous visits by the Houston Recovery Center, HPD Homeless Outreach Team and Star of Hope.
  • Increased enforcement, by putting more cops on the streets and assigned officers to the specific area.
  • Increased enforcement operations targeting distributors and sellers of Kush
  • Created a Public Intoxication Team to quickly remove intoxicated individuals off the streets and transport them to the Sobering Center.
  • Collaborating with adjacent management districts to pick up the trash in the area.
  • Working with TXDOT to secure the area.
  • Working with our state and federal partners to secure needed resources to fight and respond to substance abuse (including treatment).

The highly concentrated and visible congregation of individuals at the TXDOT property located under 59 at Main and Fannin Streets is a substance abuse issue.

"Homeless outreach teams from  HPD, Star of Hope, The Coalition for the Homeless and US Vets continuously visits the area to offer help and have all confirmed that less than half of the population is homeless.

"The City of Houston is leading the nation is housing the homeless homelessness.

"Over 100 organizations are working together through Houston’s regional, comprehensive homeless housing initiative known as The Way Home.

"Since 2012, over 7,500 homeless individuals have been permanently housed with supportive services, helping reduce the regions homeless population by 57%.

"Regardless if they are homeless or not, outreach and services have been and will continue to be offered to this population of individuals suffering from major substance abuse.

"The situation is the result of synthetic marijuana, known locally as Kush and nationally as K2 or Spice.  Kush use is a drug epidemic that is not unique to Houston, impacting cities throughout the nation.

"Although there is no silver bullet to address Kush and no City has found a solution, that will not stop the City of Houston from trying anything and everything to combat this drug epidemic and improve the quality of life for our neighborhoods. The City is working with local, state and federal partners to obtain needed substance abuse resources and to address this very important situation."