In light of recent praise from the White House on how the city of Houston is making use of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to reduce crime, the city is now turning to federal coronavirus relief dollars to tackle another ongoing problem: homelessness.

During a June 29 Houston City Council meeting, an ordinance was passed that allocates roughly $7 million in ARPA funds toward homeless encampment and abatement services for the Houston Solid Waste Management Department.

The ordinance is a three-year contract with a one-year option to renew with the company Whittaker Lane Contracting LLC. Under the contract, which has a maximum amount of roughly $9 million, Whittaker will help the SWMD with encampment cleanups.

The initial $7 million will be used to fund the three-year contract, and the SWMD will return to City Council should more funding be made available, the ordinance said.

The scope of the work includes a series of environmental cleanup services, such as pressure washing, disinfectant services, full sanitization, trash pickup, waste disposal, special biochemical waste and portable cleaning.

District A Council Member Amy Peck, who spoke in support of the ordinance, said she believes the Texas Department of Transportation should aid in the encampment cleanups under the state overpasses since it is responsible for those roadways.

“We’ve seen how successful the cleanups have been, but it definitely is a lot of money,” Peck said.