Houston trying to tackle homeless "camping"

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ABC13 Investigates visits homeless camp blocks from ball park on Opening Day.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has an aggressive plan to tackle the city's persistent street homeless program, but a visit to homeless camps shows how tough it might be.

RELATED: Mayor Turner reveals plan to deal with homelessness

On baseball's Opening Day, ABC13 visited a homeless encampment on Congress Street under the US-59 overpass, just two blocks from Minute Maid Park. As fans streamed past headed into the game, about a dozen homeless men and women rested on mats, mattresses, blankets, pallets and an abandoned wheelchair set up along the city sidewalk.
Celeste Broggins - one of the homeless men - explained the city has no right to move him away.

"It's in the law books," Broggins told ABC13 Investigates' Ted Oberg. "I have the right to stay here."

He's right. The city insists street sleeping is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Broggins however talked with ABC13 sitting on one of three plastic chairs he'd set up outside of a bedroom fashioned from dozens of hanging blankets, cardboard, and wooden pallets. All of it blocked most of the Congress Street sidewalk, moving fans onto a city street.

"I don't like it," Abel Rodriguez told us as he took his family into the park. "They have to clean it up. It doesn't feel good."

Mayor Sylvester Turner has heard the complaints.
"We're not going to allow the tents," Turner said at a news conference. Under a plan Mayor Turner hopes council will approve next week, tents and structures put up on city streets would be outlawed, along with grills and fire pits. But the plan would not outlaw street sleeping.

"You can't criminalize someone for just sleeping. That becomes unconstitutional," Turner said.

If it passes, the city would allow the homeless to sleep on the street and keep as much as they could fit in a box 3' by 3' by 3'.

The Mayor's plan is expected to be voted on Wednesday April 12. It also includes measures designed to curtail aggressive panhandling.

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newshomelessminute maid parkTed Oberg Investigatessylvester turnerHouston
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