Homelessness in Houston and Harris County looks to be reduced with navigation center thanks to $ 100 million COVID relief

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) – The effort to decommission homeless camps across Houston and Harris County will continue with a new beefed up fund of $ 100 million.

“In Houston, we either go big or we go home, and today we are going big so that most vulnerable Houstonians can go home,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner during a press conference Wednesday.

RELATED STORY: Fifth Ward residents at odds with city of Houston over proposed center that will help the homeless

The money, granted to Houston and Harris County through federal COVID-19 relief dollars, will be used to grant permanent housing for up to 7,000 people over the course of three years. It will also be used for wrap-around services like mental health, substance abuse and job training.

“It’s giving people all the support that they need in order to get themselves back on their feet, so that they can hold down a job,” Turner said.

A small portion of the funds, about $ 6 million, will be used for a new navigation center, temporary transitional housing for the homeless.

“This is not a shelter, but this is essentially for people who are homeless and they need that support,” said Turner.

The navigation center will be operated out of a city-owned building off Jensen Street in the Fifth Ward, located right across the street from a preschool.

“We want to make sure our families feel comfortable dropping off their kids here every day. So, we’re very interested in how that center is run, who runs it and how it will affect our operations,” said Ana Schick, the executive director for Small Steps Nurturing Center.

Turner said the center will house about 100 people for durations of 30 to 60 days.

Inside, they will provide health care and job training, which the Fifth Ward community will also have access to.

Schick said the city has been in communication with the preschool for several years, explaining the potential use for the building. She said her schools want to support this type of outreach, but staff members, who also live in the neighborhood, have mixed reviews.

“It’s kind of scary because we’re a school. We do not know what kind of people will be going in there,” said Nancy Espinoza.

“We all need an opportunity. We all need a second chance, and I’m happy they can have that,” said Maria Pena.

The navigation center, which will be the second of its kind in the city, is slated to open in August and will have 24/7 management and security, according to Turner.

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