Mandatory cleanup hours away at Wheeler homeless encampment

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HEALTH NUISANCE NO MORE: At the Wheeler homeless encampment, there are only hours left before a city-ordered cleanup begins. (KTRK)

A deep cleansing of a major homeless encampment near Midtown will begin in the morning.

The Houston Local Health Authority has declared the area under the US-59 overpass at Wheeler a "Public Health Nuisance."

Among the tents and dozens of people under the freeway are conditions deemed so unsanitary the City of Houston in stepping in.

"No one is being punished because he or she is homeless, but we are facing a public health hazard," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. "We want to get people off the streets and into housing. This is a shared public space. We want to protect the safety and health of both the homeless and local residents."

Human waste, mosquitoes, flies, and trash are all concerns. The homeless population has been alerted that by 8 a.m. Friday, everyone must be gone so cleanup can begin. The so-called Wheeler Homeless Encampment is adjacent to neighborhoods.

"I think they need to keep it clean. It would be better if they found a better place for all of these people to go, and I think it's a much larger issue than just the cleanliness that needs to be taken care of at the present moment," said Rachel McLaughlin, who lives nearby. "But yeah, they should keep it clean for the best of those people and the people of the community."

Those living in the encampment have been told what they can't take with them, the City, if approved, will store for free for up to 90 days.

Once the area is cleaned, they can return but only with limited belongings. HPD's Homeless Outreach Team and other city workers will be onsite to provide information about services.

"I just hope that this isn't some kind of plot by the city to move these people out and displace them," said Samuel Hodge, who walks through the area everyday on his way home. "That they really are trying to give these people aid because we're all human beings. Houston is too rich of a city to have a homeless problem."

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Mayor Turner orders cleanup of Wheeler homeless encampment
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Mayor Turner orders cleanup of Wheeler homeless encampment.

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