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

Erica Simon Image
Thursday, August 12, 2021
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There's no word on how soon the center could go up, but at least 800 people have signed a petition to stop it. Some residents say they feel neglected.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There's no place like Houston's Fifth Ward.

It has a close-knit family neighborhood with a plethora of citizens who've gone on to do great things. It also has its fair share of challenges.

"We want resources. We want our houses repaired. We want our kids taken care of out here," resident Sandra Edwards said.

Edwards has been vocal on the ongoing creosote contamination issue that's been linked to a railyard near her home. She's still recovering from damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and mold from February's winter storm.

Edwards said she's opposed to a new center for the homeless that's slated to be built on Jensen Drive.

"We got a whole lot more steps to take before you go throw another duck on top of that and give us a homeless shelter," she said. "We don't need this homeless shelter. I applaud what they're doing. I love what they're doing. Take it somewhere else, because you aren't helping us out here yet."

Tuesday night, the city of Houston held a meeting to discuss what was described as a navigation center to help those who've fallen on hard times.

Over the course of 30 to 45 days, participants would be given job training and resources to help them land permanent housing.

"All my life in Fifth Ward, I had to figure out how to turn lemons into lemonade," said James Prince during the meeting.

"J. Prince" is a well-known Houston-area music executive and the founder of Rap-A-Lot Records. He's been an avid promoter of Houston's rap scene and rap artists who is now working to help underprivileged neighborhoods and communities.

"I don't even look at this as a lemon opportunity," he said. "I look at this as an opportunity that came down from a bigger cause. So, I look forward to the challenge."

Prince and his family own a lot of the property around the proposed center site. They have a special place in their hearts for the homeless population and do a lot to help them year-round.

"We can talk about the problems all day long, but what are we going to do?" asked Ronda Prince. "As the Prince family, I mean, I can stand on solid ground and say, 'We try to do it all the time.' We invite and welcome any and everybody, and if the city is willing to try to do something, we're not against that."

There's no word on how soon the navigation center could go up or if it's completely set in stone, but at least 800 people have signed a petition to stop it.

"You talking to me about bringing in strangers, transitioning them, miraculously, into housing in very short period of time, and you're ignoring the community you're bringing them to? That's insulting," said Joetta Stevenson, the president of the Greater Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood.

According to Greater Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood Council, it's estimated that nearly 3,000 homes in Fifth Ward were built before 1978.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Erica Simon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.