Law enforcement, nonprofits respond to emergence of homeless camps in Cy-Fair

Image description
Law enforcement, nonprofits respond to emergence of homeless camps in Cy-Fair

Homelessness in the Greater Houston area saw an uptick in 2018, and officials with a local nonprofit said that increase can be seen in Cy-Fair as well.


The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County updates its homeless count each year over the course of a three-day period. The process includes visiting emergency shelters, transitional housing and safe havens as well as under bridges, along bayous and in abandoned buildings, according to an executive summary released as part of the 2018 count.


The group counted 4,143 homeless individuals earlier this year across Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties, up from 3,412 in 2017, according to a survey report released this spring. In Harris County the number of unsheltered homeless individuals rose from 1,078 in 2017 to 1,528 in 2018.


Specific counts are not conducted in the Cy-Fair area. However, Jean Dreyer, executive director of homeless initiatives for Cy-Fair Helping Hands, said she has observed an increase on Cy-Fair streets as well.


“It is obvious to us that there’s more and more,” Dreyer said. “Almost any clump of woods of any size is going to have someone living in it. There’s lots of homeless people that most of us never see.”


Dreyer said Hurricane Harvey has led to what she believes is an increase in the number of homeless people in Cy-Fair-area hotels and motels. However, she said she thinks the main reason for the increase on the streets has to do with changes to how the city of Houston handles homelessness, including laws that set strict regulations on where food can be given to homeless people.


“[The city is] trying to put them in a certain area, so the more independent ones come out here [to Cypress] so they can camp where they want to camp,” Dreyer said.


Small teams of volunteers conduct homeless outreach for Cy-Fair Helping Hands in a number of ways, including hitting the streets and interacting with the homeless directly, Dreyer said. The group tries to meet their physical needs by providing food and clothing but also works to identify individuals looking to transition out of homelessness, she said.


“Most of the ones on the streets in the Cypress Fairbanks area, we know, but we do come across new people and work to get to know them and their situation so we can help,” Dreyer said.



Homeless camps


Dreyer said she has also noticed an increase over the past few years in homeless encampments in Cy-Fair in areas that are more visible to the public.


“That’s something that we’ve never seen out here,” she said. “Typically, the people in Cy-Fair, up until recently, were pretty much independent, meaning they did not camp together.”


Out of respect for the privacy of homeless individuals, Dreyer declined to point to specific areas in Cy-Fair where she and her volunteers have seen encampments.


Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said his officers have worked to break up homeless camps at the request of property owners. Precinct 4 stretches from Hwy. 290 in Cy-Fair eastward to the Atascocita and Lake Houston area.


“We normally go in with the property owner and basically tell the folks they need to move on,” Herman said. “If the property owner really doesn’t care, there’s not much we can do. We will let [Harris County Public Health] know because a lot of these camps are public health concerns.”


Herman said officers try to find places for the homeless to stay when they take down a camp, often helping them connect with Northwest Assistance Ministries or the homeless shelter in downtown Houston. Cy-Fair Helping Hands has also turned to law enforcement to help in the past, including to the Harris County Sheriff Office’s Homeless Outreach Team, which Dreyer said helps transport individuals to shelters.


Dreyer said individuals looking to help the homeless should contact Cy-Fair Helping Hands to learn more about volunteer opportunities and ways to donate. She said when it comes to helping people transition out of homelessness, timing is key.


“It’s much easier if we can prevent them from being homeless, or if we can catch them right as soon as they’re homeless and start the process,” she said. “The longer they’ve been on the streets, the harder it is.”

SHARE THIS STORY
By Shawn Arrajj

Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

A Harris County administrative judge has ordered county officials to "wholly disregard" an order from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo that involved releasing certain nonviolent inmates from the Harris County Jail. (Courtesy Brian Jackson/Adobe Stock)
Judge orders halt to Harris County inmate release

The plan to release certain nonviolent inmates was announced earlier this week to try to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at the Harris County Jail.

(Kaitlin Schmidt/Community Impact Newspaper)
ROUNDUP: 5 recent coronavirus stories from the North Houston area readers should know

Catch up on some of the latest coronavirus updates for the North Houston area below.

Free meals will be available to Cy-Fair ISD children age 18 and younger while schools are closed. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Where to get free curbside meals for Cy-Fair ISD children

Cy-Fair ISD officials are offering two free curbside pickup meals each day at 19 campuses throughout the district.

Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
TSA limits checkpoints at George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Houston Airport System expects significant decline in March passengers

With low passenger travel amid the coronavirus pandemic, Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at George Bush Intercontinental Airport have been consolidated to make better use of resources and personnel, Houston Airport System officials said.

Volunteers unload food donations for the Montgomery County Food Bank. (Courtesy Drive West Communications)
ExxonMobil makes $250,000 donation to local food banks

The energy company said the Houston Food Bank will receive $200,000, including $50,000 in gasoline gift cards. The Montgomery County Food Bank will also receive $50,000.

Some local bakeries are offering sweet treats for pickup as well as decorate-your-own cookie kits. (Courtesy Suzybeez Bakery)
Decorate cookies, take fitness classes and more: How to stay entertained while at home in Cy-Fair

As Harris County’s stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of April, many local businesses are getting creative.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo provided updates on the county's "Stay Home-Work Safe" order at a March 30 press conference. (Screenshot via Harris County)
VIDEO: Texas Tribune interviews Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo about the coronavirus outbreak’s impact in Houston

The Texas Tribune demographics reporter Alexa Ura interviewed Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on April 3.

The Daikin Texas Technology Park opened in Waller County in 2017. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Daikin temporarily closes Waller plant after second employee tests positive for COVID-19

Employees will be taking unpaid time off during the closure, but the company said it does not expect to cut any jobs.

A sign in front of the Avanti at Towne Lake senior-living community thanks staff members for their work throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Officials at several local Cy-Fair communities said they have put new protocols into place to make sure both staff and residents remain healthy. (Courtesy Avanti at Towne Lake)
'Hard on staff and hard on residents': How Cy-Fair senior living centers are coping with the coronavirus

Local facilities are trying to find ways to keep seniors connected during the time of social distancing.

The employees of The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More gather their characters together in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." (Kate Looney/The Adventure Begins Comics, Games & More)
5 recent business stories from the Houston area readers should know

Read updates on how local businesses are reacting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prices are more of an indicator of real estate activity during the coronavirus pandemic than location or geography, a local Realtor said.
Q&A: Houston-area Realtor describes changes in business during coronavirus outbreak

Prices are more of an indicator of real estate activity during the coronavirus pandemic than location or geography, a local Realtor said.

The Texas Department of Transportation has announced the following lane closures planned along Hwy. 290 this weekend. (Courtesy Fotolia)
15 Hwy. 290 lane closures affecting Cy-Fair drivers this weekend, April 3-5

The Texas Department of Transportation has announced the following lane closures planned along Hwy. 290 this weekend.