Randi Lewis, who directs the outreach efforts, said in an early April Training session that many do not see the homeless in the local area, as they tend to avoid the type of mass encampments located in downtown Houston.
“Suburban homelessness doesn’t look like urban scenarios, so it’s harder to spot, as it’s not concentrated, and many of the area’s homeless live in their cars or camp in local parts at night, and they lack access to the resources offered downtown,” she said.
Causes of local homelessness
Janet Ryan, the executive director of the organization, said the safety net of services for the homeless is flawed, as it requires levels of mobility that many of the area's homeless individuals simply do not have. She said, by and large, their only mode of transportation is walking, and to repeatedly receive help in urban areas from the suburbs is extremely difficult.
“The area used to be more affluent in the past, but now there are people here who aren’t,” Ryan said. “Their state of homelessness is not always linked to a bad decision they made in their lives. Many live paycheck to paycheck, and sudden or chronic illness is one of the main causes of homelessness. Now that the pandemic moratoriums have been lifted, eviction proceedings are starting immediately.”
Many of the homeless individuals they serve are elderly and lack the resources to continue to live on their own, and thus become homeless. Others they encounter have children and dogs, or are veterans who have been injured living on the street. She said one of the center's veteran clients was hit by a car and simply could not get appropriate ongoing care, and, as a result, he died.
Lewis cited statistics from Cy-Fair ISD that indicate 1 out of 100 students in area schools are homeless. To put that in perspective, there are over 118,000 students in CFISD, making that number over 1,100 students. And she said the reported numbers are likely higher, as much of it goes unreported through neglect or shame of the parents of homeless children.
In addition to hidden homelessness, Lewis listed multiple other causes, such as economic, medical, legal, systemic, relational and situational factors.
Currently, Cy-Fair Helping Hands has approximately 120 volunteers, and they work in various aspects of the program multiple times per week, so the need is there to recruit additional volunteers to bolster and expand the outreach.
Volunteers are encouraged to utilize their skills and passions to best serve the organization and its clients. Some choose to be out in the community in outreach teams, and others choose to volunteer at the center helping with meals and other tasks. Others help with legal or health care paperwork and internet connectivity access.
Services offered to the homeless include the following:
- Coffee and doughnuts breakfast;
- Hot lunches;
- Group or individual prayer;
- Local shuttle transportation;
- On-site laundry and showers;
- Document assistance;
- Health checkups;
- Food assistance; and
- Hygienic supplies and clothing.
- 517 showers and loads of laundry;
- 1,248 families received holiday meals and 323 toys and gift cards for children;
- 1,532 nights of temporary shelter provided for 163 people, of which 105 were children;
- 6,325 meals provided including sack and hot lunches; and
- 42,800 pounds of food delivered to seniors and the mobility impaired.