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Homeless Problem Downtown?


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I try to make it an effort to check out downtown a couple times a week, either by driving or taking the rail line and walking around. I am a huge supporter of the growth of downtown and like to get a pulse on what is happening and to check out the construction sites.


Of course, I know there has always been a homeless problem downtown but on my two recent visits downtown I've seen more than normal...way more than normal. My last visit, I stopped into a downtown restaurant and a homeless person aggressively followed me to my car trying to get my attention. I know they are usually harmless but It seems like I am noticing more and more homeless in various parts of downtown.


Another time this month,  I took the train in and noticed that a group of homeless had gathered around the train station and were exchanging drugs. When the train arrived, they did not get on. Has there been a problem with homeless hanging out at the train stations with no intentions of actually using the transportation?


Also, what is the city doing about this situation and what do people on this forum feel will happen with an increased residential component in most of downtown? I understand that there are a number of shelters downtown and I am OK with their presence, if they are seeking those services, but drug deals and aggressively going after downtown visitors is going to make some uneasy and sour their opinion of downtown.


Edited by shasta
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Lived here fora year.

Traveled here 3 weeks per month for 4 years before that.

Traveled here 10 times per year for 8 years before that.

Lived in the Houston MSA for 10 years before that.

Have only seen a decline in the street population during that time.

I recognize that it exists but it is less troublesome, in my opinion, than 25 years ago.

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I have to agree with Utterly Urban.


With a few brief exceptions here and there, I've worked downtown pretty much continuously since the late '70s.  Back then, you just did not park east of Caroline after dark, unless you were going to Liberty Hall.  It wasn't panhandling that was the concern, it was getting mugged.


Having more and more people out and about has helped make things much safer, as has a larger and more visible police presence.  No, I'm not going to leave anything visible in my parked car downtown (a rule I also follow pretty much everywhere, including in my own dang driveway), and I'm not going to park in a dark, secluded place at night (nor would I do so at the suburban mall/shopping center of your choice), but all in all, downtown's tons better than it used to be.

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Let's also not forget that downtown, I am told, has the lowest rates of crime in the entire city. With 100,000 workers (and depending on the day ten thousand more sports fans or performing arts fans plus a few thousand more in hotels or folks at discovery green) and their cars, wallets, and purses here 5+ days per week, that is actually a very telling stat (if true).

Don't let the street urchins concern you. Come downtown. It's safe and it's fun (crazies and panhandlers aside).

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There are plenty of homeless panhandlers with varying degrees of aggressiveness, but I have not really detected a trend one way or the other.


A lot of blighted junk has been cleared off in the 13 years I’ve been going to DT regularly, but there are pockets where it definitely feels sketchier than others. The blocks on the East side of Main from $1.99 store to Green Street always seem to have groups of especially haggard looking men congregating in places that smell worse than somewhere you would normally want to hang out with your buddies. I assume there is some drug activity going on in that area, as the concentration is markedly lower when the horse cops or a marked cruiser are stationed nearby.  I’m making assumptions there though, actual enforcement options may be limited and/or whatever is going on may be less illegal than I am thinking, but the atmosphere does not put a “let’s convert the Sakowitz building to a Nordstrom” idea in to a passing investor’s head.


That said, a lot of public and private investment has gone in to that area recently, so maybe the activity seems more out of place than it used to. It would be nice if people could enjoy the area (and how it might improve further in the near future) without being badgered for money and smelling urine.


To the larger issue of homeless management, Houston seems to do it about as well as any CBD I’ve been around. These folks are going to be attracted to a city center, and they can be displaced from particular areas, but they will usually just settle somewhere else nearby.

Edited by Nate99
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Keep in mind that the Harris County Jail is, by Sherif Garcia's telling, the largest mental health care provider in the state.  Mental illness and/or substance abuse and homelessness run hand in hand, and because of resource constrains on Harris County MHMRA, etc, most of those people are going to end up in jail, rather than a hospital.  When they get out, they usually find themselves at the corner of Commerce and San Jacinto.   As long as this is the case, there will always be a significant homeless population downtown.  



Edited by adr
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  • 4 weeks later...

Maybe we need a project to house all these homeless? *looking at you heaven on earth* (only somewhat joking.. Obviously projects are a blight [hang advertising banners over it] but the homeless sleeping on the street with all their belongings seems worse from a pedestrians standpoint)

I noticed a lot of them up and down Main today.

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