Harris, Montgomery counties continue efforts to help homeless

Harris, Montgomery counties continue efforts to help homeless

Harris and Montgomery county officials are continuing to combat homelessness in the area with new outreach programs and assistance for individuals in need.

Harris County outreach

Earlier this year, the Greater Houston-area Coalition for the Homeless performed an annual count of homeless individuals in Harris County. According to the 2015 report, about 4,350 people in the county are identified as homeless, which is a 14 percent decrease from last year.

The count differentiated between individuals who have shelter, such as transitional housing, and individuals who are living on the streets.

Harris County officials are working to help the estimated 2,400 individuals living in unsheltered conditions. In early November, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman and county officials launched a pilot homeless outreach program to help individuals living in wooded areas along FM 1960 and Hwy. 249.

“[The area is] a haven for homeless activity,” Hickman said during an Oct. 2 Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “We have homeless camps in much of the wooded areas around [that area].”

The program is funded through $110,000 in private donations and helps provide homeless individuals with basic necessities, such as food and bottled water, said Robert Henry, Harris County sheriff’s office lieutenant.

Montgomery County efforts

In Montgomery County, nonprofit groups are working to reach out to families affected by homelessness.

A 2015 survey conducted by the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless indicated 21.8 percent of 415 identified homeless individuals are part of families with children ranging in age from pre-K to 12th grade.

Conroe-based nonprofit organization Family Promise of Montgomery County provides assistance and resources to families that find themselves homeless.

“We’re unlike anything else in the area. We can assist up to four families at any time or 16 people.”

—Family Promise Case Manager Helen Cath

During a 90-day period, the organization helps families stay together while adults look for employment, Family Promise Case Manager Helen Cath said. The program is open to parents with children under the age of 18, she said.

“We’re unlike anything else in the area,” Cath said. “We can assist up to four families at any time or 16 people.”

The first priority for individuals in the program is to find full-time employment to ensure steady income, and the organization provides free child care, Cath said.

Family Promise also partners with 14 area churches to provide nighttime shelter and food donations, she said.

In order to save money for housing, Cath said participating parents turn over all disposable income to the organization during the 90-day period.

“It’s put in the bank, and when they graduate or leave the program, we give them every cent back,” Cath said. “It gives them that nest egg for the move to independence.”

Cath said those in need of local resources are encouraged to call 211, a national group that connects people with assistance if they cannot find any in the immediate area.

More information can be found at www.211.org.