Houston, TX – In April 2012, the City of Houston, including Mayor Annise Parker passed an anti – food sharing ordinance which made it illegal for any group or individual to feed the homeless or those in need without risking a fine of $500 – $2,000 or even jail. The ordinance states that if you feed more than 5 individuals, you can be subjected to breaking the law. To date, there are groups and homeless advocates who continue to feed the homeless without a permit that’s required to share food. Food Not Bombs Houston has been feeding Houston’s homeless over 23 years. FNB was at the forefront fighting the city over the ordinance and through today is the only food sharing group who doesn’t have to have permission from the city to feed those in need of a meal. FNB is made of up volunteers who are involved in church, activism, homeless advocacy or not involved in anything but just wants to come help. Individuals come from all diversities and share food M, W, F at 8 p.m. and Sun at 7 p.m., rain or shine, holiday or not. FNB refused to adhere to the city ordinance and that is why I’ve enjoyed working with the group for 5 years. The majority of volunteers who are committed truly have a heart for our homeless community. That is what makes this work so well, serving roughly 90 – 120 people. FNB is a vegetarian food sharing and prides itself on serving a healthier alternative. Homeless are not the only ones who come to eat. We’ve had scores of people throughout the years who have homes but don’t have enough food in the home so they come eat with FNB. Even volunteers are encouraged to eat, hence why we call this a food sharing and not a feeding.
Look behind FNB and that’s where you find a brightly lit of building that is Houston City Hall now run by Mayor Sylvester Turner who has also refused to reverse the anti – food sharing ordinance. Back in June 2016, Houston was dealing with a KUSH epidemic that impacted our homeless for months after Houston Police seized 9 tons of KUSH after making a bust the 3rd week of May. Within one week of the bust, Houston’s homeless were heavily impacted by KUSH use that flooded the streets of downtown and local parks around the downtown area. Coincidence? No. However, no police agency or city dept would admit that the flow of KUSH came by the same people who claim to serve and protect. Once the KUSH ran out, so did the issue of the concerns of our homeless who were on it, impacting communities. Mayor Turner used the KUSH matter at part of the reason for not reversing the food sharing ordinance. I’ve heard Turner defend the homeless through words however through action, I’m not seeing the same. December 22, 2016 at two different locations that happened nearly the same time, two homeless downtown hotspots were hit by police. Near Minute Maid Park, Houston Police caved into the homeless camp with city waste, trashing homeless items by the bulk. Several homeless claimed that their personal possessions were trashed without permission. HPD told the homeless to stand back or get arrested. At the Wheeler camp at the same time, Pct 7 police questioned whether I fed the homeless, reminding me it is illegal to feed. Admitting that I fed the homeless and wished they were 5 minutes earlier so I could receive a ticket, it left the officer dumbfounded. (Link below)
Mayor Turner had sent out a press release to the public concerning the Wheeler homeless camp. While originally I was glad that items belonging to the homeless were left untouched and that the city focused on the heavy trash under the bridge, I was disappointed by his use of stereotypes in the release. “Drug use” AND “crime” won’t be tolerated. No shit! It shouldn’t be tolerated by any citizen, not just the homeless however this is the continued stigma that city officials continue to push. This could be the words led by Janice Evans (his Communications Director & who hates me with a passion) however the words were approved by the Mayor and to continue to spew rhetoric that condition people to be scared of the homeless and continue this outlook. These are one of the reasons why we are here facing off.
The entire press release can be linked here: http://www.houstongovnewsroom.org/go/doc/2155/2912434/
Fast forward to the last few months where homeless in the downtown area have been hearing rumors that the city is going to ensure their presence will no longer be during Super Bowl week, has caused homeless advocates and homeless advocate supporters to come out and determine how to handle this matter. In San Francisco last year during their Super Bowl, it was illegal to be homeless in or around the area where Super Bowl festivities were taking place. In Houston, activists and advocates are refusing to let that happen. The Wheeler homeless camp has become a fighting ground between advocates, police/city of Houston and gentrified snitches. Gentrification has been a problem in Houston for years now. Areas of town where once white money wouldn’t dare drive in the communities are now throwing $200k – millions for gentrified housing in the same areas spoken the worst of over decades like 3rd Ward, Midtown, 4th Ward and so on. Executives who once flooded newly built territories in the suburbs like Sugar Land, Cinco Ranch, all the CY – areas and more have now come back into the city to buy homes near downtown. There’s only one problem… the homeless had that territory first. However, white money continues to build these aluminum boldly painted homes and while some tend to gravitate towards money and the “finer things of life” the truth is, we still have a homeless population that needs to be handled with care. If anything, just to receive a meal or proper healthcare. The gentrified snitches refuse to see it that way. Their idea and concerning revolves around money and their property values. Here are a couple of examples of gentrified snitches:
These are the typical people who are walking zombies of society. They don’t have a compassionate bone in their body. They believe the world revolves around them only. They also swear they’ve visited with these same homeless several times and that all of them are healthy looking without mental issues so why can’t they go get a job? In reality, these are the kinds who eat up our planet with their inhumane bile and ego’s that stand taller than any of the buildings they work in, they decide to call the police anytime a group of people are seen at the Wheeler camp. The last 3 trips I’ve taken to Wheeler camp in a week has led to being confronted by police 3 times, asking if we’re feeding the homeless. On Sunday afternoon a family in a red truck came out to hand out blankets to the homeless when Pct 7 came out, questioning the family.
The weekend prior, a gentrified snitch called the police which led to 5 HPD units questioning whether we were feeding the homeless when we were out there to clean up the Wheeler camp.
A Latino family, children included, had walked through the Wheeler camp to hand out sandwiches, cold drinks and chips. As the family made their way back, a gentrified snitch stopped the family, scolding them in front of their children advising that they are not allowed to feed the homeless. She was not friendly either. She has been seen driving around the Wheeler camp in a newer model Cadillac and is described as an older white haired white woman. While gentrified snitches are attempting to rid the homeless from the area, a group of activists have enacted their official “Homeless Watch” that has begun. These watches will ensure that our homeless are not mistreated because they are homeless whether it is in a gentrified area or areas where Super Bowl festivities will be taking place. Several Houston police officers have been independently telling several homeless men and women that they will not be allowed to be downtown or in areas near NRG Stadium where the Super Bowl will be held next month. Some officers have stated that the homeless are to stay outside a 3 – 5 mile radius of downtown and NRG. Homeless advocates met with a Sgt Herndon under HPD Assist Chief Troy Finner on Jan 5th who confirmed that no orders were set out for Houston officers to relay such information to the homeless. According to HPD, any officer outlining any rules at this time, are making these claims on their own and are not backed by HPD. We’ve been advised that if or when a time comes that rules will come forward, that we will be made aware of these rules so that we can communicate them to the homeless. Houston Officer Cuffy who works at The Beacon, which is a homeless service located in downtown Houston, was filmed telling a homeless man that if the homeless are downtown at the time of Super Bowl, that they would be going to jail. The man tells the officer, “But you cannot arrest someone just because they are homeless”. Cuffy replies, “You’re right, we can’t. But we can find something else to charge you with.” Because the man in the video is the one who brought this to my attention, is why it is important for me to keep him anonymous, for his safety. The video was very real and very chilling which caused me to initiate a homeless watch and bring together others who would assist in watching and defending those who are defenseless. Homeless watches have already begun in different hotspots around downtown, to NRG Stadium, to Hobby Airport. These watches will continue through the night of the Super Bowl so the gentrified snitches should get themselves ready. The homeless may not be able to stand up for themselves but we’ve stepped in and are quite ready to take on any challenges offered. In the end, is this really about keeping law and order concerning the food ordinance? Or is it the City of Houston who is caving to white money? White money being the gentrified areas creating havoc and those complaining because they are worried about Houston’s image during Super Bowl? I do know that each time I go check on the homeless, I nor anyone else, should be subjected to a cops who’ve been tattled to by a bunch of snobs. Since when did Houston because “that city”? – END
“Until we begin to deal with mental issues surrounding homelessness (i.e. ptsd from becoming and living homeless on top of possibly having other mental disorders) we will continue to have this problem.” – Shere Dore
Burnell McCray has been photo documenting Houston for over 30-years. He’s sharing his album concerning the Wheeler homeless camp up close and personal. You can see the engagement with the homeless and engagement with the powers that be when police arrive.
***I will be addressing City Council Wednesday morning to discuss the continued harassment by these gentrified snitches and to also question actions led by police towards our homeless lately***