How successful has Mayor Sylvester Turner been in addressing Houston’s Homelessness?

In January of this year, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a $100 million initiative to combat homeless in the city of Houston. A mix of local, state, and federal funds, with an essential component from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), make up the $100 million price tag. The funding will be spent as part a larger program called the Community COVID Program (CPP). Mayor Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo launched the CPP in October of 2020 to help fight homelessness during the pandemic. The program substitutes shelters and short-term motels for strategically deployed permanent housing. The first phase of the program proved to be successful, housing 7,000 people by January 2022. This surpassed the program’s initial goal of housing 5,000 people by the two-year mark. 

The first phase of the program proved to be successful, housing 7,000 people by January 2022.

“We are not resting on our laurels, together, we will do more, and we must keep the momentum going. Therefore, Houston and Harris County are doubling down and once again partnering with the Coalition for the Homeless and fellow agencies to launch the largest and most ambitious homeless initiative in the history of the City and County. Together, we can strategically utilize COVID-19 related funding to turn the crisis of the pandemic into an opportunity to reduce homelessness further and save lives.” said Mayor Turner.

Prior to the pandemic, Houston had an impressive decade reducing homeless. Throughout the 2010s, Houston housed more than 25,000 people experiencing homeless, reducing its homeless population by about 63 percent. Through a “housing first” approach to solving the problem, the city cut the wait time to receive permanent housing from 720 days to 32 days. City officials believe that getting the homeless into housing is the quickest and most effective way to help them stay off the streets. Once housing is provided, the city can focus on issues like unemployment, mental health, and physical disabilities. 

Through a “housing first” approach to solving the problem, the city cut the wait time to receive permanent housing from 720 days to 32 days.

Mayor Turner hopes to build the city’s progress and further cut homelessness by 50% by 2025. The new phase of the CCP will directly provide housing for an estimated 7,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, doubling the program’s current impact. It also aims to create infrastructure to end homelessness, which includes funding for new navigation centers and a new public-private partnership. A navigation center is where the homeless are housed temporarily, for 60-90 days, before being transitioned into more permanent housing. The city currently has a public-private partnership with the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, which plans to help operate the new navigation centers.  

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