Houston and Harris County launch $64 million program to combat homelessness during pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As Houston and Harris County leaders work to lower the COVID-19 case count in our area, they're also working to keep down the number of homeless people.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Turner announced the launch of a new $64 million plan to address homelessness in Houston.

The Community-wide COVID-19 Housing Program (CCHP) will house 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the next two years to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"People experiencing homelessness are especially susceptible to the coronavirus, and are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms, according to the CDC. It is imperative that we get out and get our brothers and sisters off the streets and out of the shelters, and keep them from filling the emergency rooms," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The program will permanently house people who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who may fall into homelessness as a result of the economic effects of the coronavirus.

"This $65 million program is the largest, most ambitious homeless initiative in the history of the city or county," Turner said. "But it is not about the amount of funding, but rather the number of lives that the initiative will transform more than doubling the number of homeless individuals that are annually housed."

The City of Houston put up $40 million, and Harris County dedicated $18 million to the initiative using federal funds. The project includes significant funding from private sectors, according to Turner.

The Coalition for the Homeless helped coordinate planning efforts and will lead the the initiative, which is expected to start in August.

The CCHP will include:
Diversion: A program to help approximately 2,000 people maintain or regain housing so they do not have to enter emergency shelter. Assistance may be financial (i.e., up to three months' rent) or may include family mediation or creative problem-solving.

Rapid rehousing: Short-term (up to 12 months') rental assistance and light services for those who do not require intensive case management, for approximately 1,700 newly homeless individuals.

A "bridge" to permanent supportive housing (PSH): Housing for approximately 1,000 persons currently experiencing chronic homelessness - including those living unsheltered and/or in encampments - while they await a PSH unit.

During the news conference, Turner also discussed the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Houston.

WATCH: Turner discusses COVID-19 crisis in Houston
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Mayor Turner discusses the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The city reported 832 new cases, bringing the total to 21,123. Four new deaths were also reported, bringing the total to 228.

"The threat that COVID-19 poses to our community, right now is higher than it has been. There is a severe non-control spread between our families, friends and communities, and it's going to take all of us working together to stop the speed of this virus," Turner said.
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