HOUSTON - Next week, City Council is expected to vote on a measure that would bring an extra layer of transparency to many Houston neighborhoods. The issue involves so-called residential parole halfway houses.
"I definitely want to know," said Andraea Semiens, who just learned one of the halfway houses is in her ZIP code. "You want to know what's going on in your neighborhood so you can make an informed decision on if you want to stay."
According to a City Council public safety committee presentation, there are dozens of residential halfway houses, called Alternative Housing Facilities, throughout Houston.
Very few people know they exist, because on the outside they look like any other home on the street.
These homes are rented to parolees who don't have a permanent residence when they get out of prison. The parole division has to approve these homes, but is not required to notify the public.
"You have no idea some of these homes have multiple offenders," said Andy Kahan, city of Houston victims’ rights advocate.
Kahan said Houston has 99 of these homes, compared to 34 in Austin and 30 in Dallas.
"We're all just trying to make sure we're on the same page," said Kahan.
That's where Councilmember Brenda Stardig comes in.
"We want to know who our neighbors are, who is living down the street," said Stardig.
Stardig is spearheading an effort to have an ordinance requiring owners of these facilities to get permits.
"You will have to notify the city and that's how we know that you're there," said Stardig.
The city will then make sure building codes are being met by these facilities. Stardig also wants the locations of these facilities posted on a city website.
Council is expected to vote next week on this ordinance, as well as a pair of proposed ordinances regarding boarding homes and lodging facilities.
Here is a map of the halfway houses:
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