Fifth Ward church gets massive pile of trash removed with Action 13's help

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Monday, July 26, 2021
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For months, members and visitors have had to see and smell the growing pile of debris just yards from their entrance, but not anymore.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Jesus Tabernacle Church sits on the corner of Newhoff and Arkansas streets in Houston's Fifth Ward.

For months, members and visitors have had to see and smell the growing pile of debris just yards from their sanctuary entrance.

"This is what we see when we come every Sunday, you know?" said Executive Pastor Oric Lagrone pointing to the pile. "When we come during the week to do service in the community, this is what we see."

The church repeatedly asked the city of Houston to clean it up.

Church members tell ABC13 it's been an on-and-off problem for 10 years, but the pile has been there for months.

READ ALSO: TURN TO TED: NE Houston homeowner waits months for city to collect 6-foot tall trash pile

"I don't want it looking like this," said church member Rosie Thompson. "This is a church. We come and we serve God. We lift up the name of Jesus, so to me, I feel like this is a hazard."

The church has reported the pile several times.

ABC13 read the emails where the city's 311 system catalogued the complaint and then resolved it without coming to clean up the debris.

Then, on Monday afternoon, the city responded to our calls and cleaned up the mess.

The city tells ABC13 they're currently shorthanded, saying it has 37 vacancies they are trying to fill with $3,000 signing bonuses. The city's behind and the same crews that pick up residential trash also pick up illegal debris when they can.

City leaders said calling 311 is the best way to report problems, but officials urge you to be specific when reporting an issue.

Tell the operator exactly what type of trash is dumped, and if you have information about when or how someone is dumping the debris, keep records and call the Houston Police Department to file a report.

"We have a staffing shortage, and so just the ability to stay on schedule has been a challenge for us," said Carolyn Wright, the city's solid waste management division director. "Report it to 311. That's the number one thing. Report it, report it, [and] report it. See something, say something. If there is someone that you see in the act and you can get a license plate number, report that as well."

The trash at Jesus Tabernacle Church is mostly gone now.

The church has since installed cameras hoping to catch whoever's illegally dumping the trash so they can put a stop to it once and for all.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Tom Abrahams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.