Sidewalks lined with sleeping bags, carts, and luggage are a sight some might see while visiting downtown Houston.
“I sleep on a sidewalk underneath a bridge,” one unhoused man told KPRC 2. “Six o’clock in the morning, I wake up, get all my stuff together, brush my teeth, just kind of rinse off a little bit.”
This is the morning routine of a man who is homeless.
“[At] 6:45 I head this way to the beacon. Get breakfast, wash my clothes, take a shower, stay for lunch,” he said.
The man doesn’t want to be identified because he doesn’t want his daughters to know that about three weeks ago, he lost his housing.
“The funding for the housing ran out,” he said.
A casualty of a delicate system— though he admits over the years alcohol addiction and family issues has led to him struggling with homelessness.
“I don’t want to be out here any longer than I have to be,” he said. “Believe it or not, for homeless people, there are a lot of services.”
A major provider of services, working with more than 100 public and private organizations and groups is the Houston Coalition for the Homeless.
“The most effective thing we can do is house people who are experiencing homelessness,” Mike Nichols, CEO of the coalition said.
According to the annual point and time count there were 3,270 people experiencing homelessness on the night of Jan. 23 in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery counties. An 18% decrease in overall homelessness since 2020.
But what about those who feel like they’ve seen more people living on the streets, downtown?
“We’ve decommissioned big encampments,” Nichols said.
Moving nearly a hundred people into housing who were previously living in tents near Minute Maid Park and on Emancipation. He estimates around dozen rejected housing.
“Twelve people sleeping at 500 Fannin is a lot of people,” he said.
The Downtown District, which represents business owners’ interests, says they’ve helped fund housing and have teams that do outreach.
“It’s a priority amongst many priorities,” Kris Larson, President of the Downtown District said. “We want to make sure this isn’t a reason people don’t want to come downtown.”
Houston Police Officer Sheldon Theragood is hoping to change the narrative.
Theragood has been on HPD’s homeless outreach team for seven years. His boots-on-the-ground approach is popular.
“Yes, this every day,” he said. “We come out here I follow and check on them and make sure they are OK.”
“It sounds like you’re describing the role of a social worker, but you’re an officer,” KPRC 2′s Sabirah Rayford said.
“Sometimes, we have to play that role,” Theragood responded.
He’s taking it one step further.
To celebrate his birthday and his love for his unhoused friends, he is holding the first-ever homeless street outreach festival.
On June 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Joseph House in Midtown, there will be food, music, and lots of vendors— but the vendors are catered specifically to help people in need of housing.
“A lot of people ask me— they need IDs, they need birth certificates, well we have that, that’s going to be there to help them get all of that,” he said.
He says it’s no longer a job, it’s his passion.
“When you come up as a cop or just a person and you see everybody running towards the car, it means a lot because you rarely see people running towards a police car,” Officer Theragood said.