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Plan to provide homeless people housing moving forward

Monday, July 15, 2013

A plan to transform a vacant motel into a place for homeless people to live is moving forward. A local non-profit wants to take an old six-building complex on the Gulf Freeway and create housing for those in need.

The Housing Corporation of Greater Houston promises that residents will be monitored around the clock, but a local civic associations wants to keep homeless aid facilities out of the east end.

The Magnolia Glen apartment complex has sat vacant since 2006. Last week, Harris County commissioners approved $9 million in Hurricane Ike relief money from HUD to the non-profit Housing Corporation of Greater Houston to create housing for the homeless here.

About 120 of its future tenants live in a facility that flooded during Hurricane Ike, which helped secure the money.

"This is permanent housing. It's an apartment complex. There are kitchens, the food bank is going to have a small presence there," said David Turkel with the Harris County Services Department.

Residents will receive services like mental health care and job training.

"The mental disabilities of some of these folks have led them to living on the street. So we want to create a supportive environment with those services," said Daphne A. Lemelle with the Harris County Office of Housing and Community Development.

Eastwood Civic Association President Sylvia Medina doesn't like it, citing 24 homeless aid facilities already in the east end.

"The east end is a repository for lots of transitional housing," Medina said.

She didn't want it here in 2009, either. The project failed when the city of Houston was a part of it. This time, the city isn't involved, and Medina feels the county kept it quiet.

"We feel like we were blindsided," Medina said.

Not so, says the county; the plans were on the agenda for four public hearings.

"The agenda is open," Turkel said.

Neighbors' primary concern is security.

"I know there's never enough housing for Houston's homeless. On the other side, I think it has to be closely monitored because we do have children and there are so many families around here," Eastwood neighborhood resident Leonora Friend said.

As for Medina, she has formed a coalition that will try to keep these doors from opening to the homeless.

"We just feel that this is not a good fit for our community," Medina said.

Pct. 1 Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee issued a statement, saying:

"It will give the formerly homeless residents the tools to live more stable and productive lives."

The county says the facility will open its doors as early as January.

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