Galveston homeless: Rising living costs, jail and hospital releases seen as factors for spike

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Thursday, November 24, 2022
Galveston becoming homeless 'dumping ground,' city council member says
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Galveston city leaders spend a great deal of time over the last week discussing on the rise of homelessness, the factors for it, and solutions.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Galveston city leaders believe homelessness is on the verge of being out of control, but those in the community already fear it is.

Pandemic-driven homeless spike

The impact of the pandemic is still taking its toll in Galveston, not from patients at the hospital, but what homeless shelters are experiencing.

"We recently, in our shelter, had a woman who was homeless...and had to give birth and come back to the shelter," Marsha Wilson Rappaport, president of the Gulf Coast Homeless Coalition, said. "It's just brutal."

According to Rappaport, a huge spike in homelessness has hit the island.

"This all happened very quickly and at once in the past two-year period," Rappaport explained. "It's very frustrating."

Rappaport blames rising rent prices. She also said landlords are making more money off vacation rentals.

Since Galveston is hospitality-driven, Rappaport said some can't afford rent. Nearly half of the people in shelters have jobs.

The Salvation Army of Galveston County said its financial assistance program to keep people out of homelessness rose 435% this summer.

The issue got the attention of city council. Last week, it talked about homelessness for nearly an hour during its council workshop meeting.

"It seems like this is definitely a problem, and it's on the verge of possibly getting out of control," City Council Member John Listowski said.

Shelter solutions examined

"Harris County got $100 million to deal with their homelessness," Rappaport said. "We did not. So, we do not have a lot of room."

Money isn't the only fix. Salvation Army leaders in Galveston said better transportation off the island would help, as well as more affordable housing.

During last week's council workshop meeting, one council member toyed with the idea of using federal money to help during the pandemic to create a place to house people.

"Is there any way the city can look into possibly accessing any of that and possibly running another shelter?" City Council Member Sharon Lewis asked.

What's causing the spike? Leaders point at jail, hospital

As city leaders explore options, they say the problem is also coming from the jail and hospital.

"We have some unique situations going on here in Galveston that may be adding to our problems," Mayor Craig Brown said.

They claim people are arrested in other areas of the county and brought to the island. After they're released, they're stuck.

"We have to do something about the fact we're becoming the dumping ground for everybody's homeless," City Council Member Marie Robb said.

It's a problem those in the homeless community fear will only get worse if something isn't done.

"Within the past month, there hasn't been a bed left," Rappaport explained.

It's a lingering issue from the pandemic that leaders fear will plague the island for months to come.

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