Proposed changes would improve safety near homeless lodges, boarding homes

Houston City Council is looking to improve safety near halfway houses, boarding homes and homeless shelters. Council members held a public meeting about proposed ordinance changes on Tuesday.

Violent incidents like one near the Salvation Army men’s lodge in 2016 that left an innocent 11-year-old boy dead have prompted Houston City Council member Brenda Stardig to push for change.

"We had this issue with Josue Flores where he was murdered at 11 years old," said Stardig. "We want to protect him and other children that are going to school and back."

Flores was seen on surveillance video walking home from school shortly before he was stabbed to death in 2016. The murder is still unsolved, but police say the suspect in the case, Andre Jackson, was homeless and was arrested for the murder at the Salvation Army lodge, walking distance from the murder scene. Jackson was later released from jail. Ever since, neighbors have used caution.

"My her friend’s family waits for her to get picked an adult or somebody that can be there watching over them," said Carlos Castillo, who lives near the Salvation Army lodge. "The neighborhood, they don’t want the Salvation Army here no more."

Stardig said modifications to existing ordinances could help improve safety for those inside and outside of Houston’s lodging facilities and boarding homes.

"Sometimes it’s really about mental health," said Stardig. "They’re not getting the services that they need and deserve, and we want to make sure that they are getting those services. Some of these facilities promise that, and then we’re not sure they are getting those services."

Mario Acevedo, who is homeless, says homeless men with no place to go during the day often commit violence outside the Salvation Army lodge.

"There’s people that come out here drunk or high or whatever the case may be, and they take it with another person," said Acevedo. "They just start fighting."

Stardig is working on several ordinance changes that she wants the community’s feedback on.

"Regulating the services that are available to those that are being served in these particular type of homes," said Stardig. "Also understanding and getting notification from the TDCJ about where they’re going to be putting these facilities so that we understand what the expectations are and the neighborhoods know who’s coming into their community."

Council member Stardig encouraged the public to attend a meeting about the proposed ordinance changes for boarding homes and other facilities on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church on Blalock Road.

"We really want to make sure that we’re protecting the communities, at the same time protecting those that are being served in these lodging facilities, boarding homes and others," said Stardig.