Local

Residents concerned over growing number of homeless in northwest Harris County

Monday, September 23, 2013

Residents on the northwest side are expressing concerns about the growing number of homeless people on the streets. Residents say they're seeing more groups of people living in wooded areas, hanging out at abandoned businesses and panhandling in intersections.

At the intersection of FM 1960 and Walters, a Hunan Chef restaurant has sat abandoned and become a shelter to the homeless in the area. Some are using the doorway as shelter, and others are panhandling in the intersection.

It's been enough to put shoppers at nearby businesses on guard.

"It does make it a little fearful," shopper Virginia Hughes said.

The Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office says there are any number of reasons for the increase in the number of homeless people in this suburban area, including mental illness, joblessness and substance abuse.

"Not all these people are criminals," Pct. 4 Assistant Chief Mark Herman said. "Some of them are just down on their luck."

But the number one priority is law enforcement.

"As far as boots on the ground, our patrol guys, we get calls on them in the road; we get calls on them trespassing," Herman said. "We go out and handle each case individually."

Last week, deputy constables told people at the restaurant to remove a mattress.

"They just moved the mattress back over the weekend," Herman said.

And there it was Monday. Its owner was later forced to move on.

Relief may be in sight for people who live and shop in the area. Chick Fil A bought the old Hunan Chef building, and renovations are expected to begin soon.

But shoppers say there needs to be a long-term solution beyond simply moving the homeless out of the way.

"I think we need to address the issue at hand, and that's the lack of employment, mental health and rehab," Hughes said.

We worked on this story with help from our friends at Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more in the Spring Observer.

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