City officials clear largest homeless encampment under US-59, forcing residents into shelters

Saturday, February 11, 2023
Houston officials clear largest homeless encampment under US-59
Residents in the encampment, known as "Tent City," located near Minute Maid Park, were allowed to go to the Navigation Center in Fifth Ward for shelter.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- City officials have cleared "Tent City," a sizeable homeless encampment just a few blocks from Minute Maid Park.

The area is located just below US-59, and those who've lived there were moved to a shelter.

Only some people got the chance to go to the Navigation Center when officials started clearing this area out this week.

Nigel Capers lives in a tent about a block down on Runnels Street, and on a cold night like Friday, he says he would have gone to the shelter if given the opportunity.

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Life took a turn for Capers after he lost his job three years ago.

"Started working at Pilot truck stop for $12 an hour for 30 hours a week, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul to rob Paul to pay Peter until we lost it all," he said.

Starting over has been tough, and living in the encampment has challenges.

"You leave your stuff for more than five or ten minutes, (then) your stuff is commandeered. It gets old, you know," he said.

A glimpse of hope for the 53-year-old came when he found out from a friend that officials were clearing out the tents, forcing people to find somewhere else to stay.

"He just said they had until Thursday that they would be given the option to go to the Navigation Center and go through rapid re-housing," Capers recalled.

Those with nowhere else to go were moved to the Navigation Center on Jensen Drive in Fifth Ward.

SEE ALSO: Shelters and city extend a hand to homeless battling the winter weather: 'We're there to help'

A partnership between the City of Houston, Harmony Housing, and the Coalition For The Homeless made this possible.

ABC13 reached out to the city and its partners to discuss ways the shelter will help the community, but a spokesperson for the mayor says the office is waiting for the grand opening to share more details.

Capers is waiting, too.

"With my PTSD, anxiety, depression, and stuff, I'm already hyper-vigilant, so being out here in the atmosphere, you have to be on your toes at all times, so it's just added pressure," Capers said.

It is unclear whether people living in the encampment next to the one on US-59 will be moved.

The special assistant in the Mayor's Office of Homeless Initiatives told ABC13's partners at the Houston Chronicle that the mayor's goal is to decommission all the medium and large encampments in the city by the end of 2023.

Whether those around him were forced out or chose to leave themselves, Capers said he hopes they get back on their feet.

"God bless them, and I hope they stay away," Capers said.