Homeless Outreach Team
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.Mother Teresa
Homeless for 40 Years
HOT made contact with Frank on April 21, 2016. Frank is a 65-year-old male who has reportedly been homeless throughout Harris County for approximately 40 years. He has struggled with drug addiction and mental health problems. Frank was extremely malnourished, underweight, and had poor hygiene. HOT immediately provided him with life sustaining emergency items. This initial interaction provided the basis for a trusting relationship between Frank and Harris County HOT.
Frank was not receiving social services as he had no identification, a common problem among the homeless. Forms of identification get lost, damaged, or stolen and it is very difficult to obtain services without it. HOT assisted Frank by creating a Homeless Consumer Identification Card which was used as supportive documentation to obtain official Texas identification. HOT provided counseling and guidance to Frank in an attempt to get him into housing and with his new identification card HOT was able to link Frank to social services. These services included drug rehabilitation, mental health evaluation and treatment, and emergency shelter. HOT provided transportation to and from these services. Frank also received a housing assessment, conducted by a case worker with the Star of Hope, and placed on a permanent housing list.
On July 25, 2017, Frank's permanent housing voucher was approved at Rittenhouse-New Hope Housing Apartments. HOT assisted by providing Frank a courtesy transport to his new home and further helped with moving his personal belongings, groceries, television and essential household items provided through donations received by HOPE Impacts.
Frank is very happy and comfortable in his new home!
Frank and HOT Deputies James Kelley (left) and Luke Ditta.
Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)
The Houston Coalition for the Homeless estimates there are 4,400 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in Harris County (2015). Mental illness and substance abuse are common in this population. Law enforcement practices of citing and jailing the homeless population have been less than fully effective; new strategies are needed to manage the barriers that propagate homelessness. In November 2015, the Harris County Sheriff's Office implemented the agency's first-ever Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). The HCSO HOT collaborates with public and private entities on outreach programs focused on locating, engaging and assisting homeless persons with housing, health care, and nutrition needs. Positive results have been achieved. HOT has assisted nearly one hundred individuals in attaining housing as of December 2016.
The HCSO remains sensitive to the unique needs of the homeless population while responding to the concerns of the citizens of Harris County. This unique outreach effort will reduce calls for police services such as trespassing, loitering, and soliciting in the roadways by homeless persons. This approach will result in fewer arrests of the homeless population as they are diverted away from jail while allowing our first responders to focus on high priority law enforcement needs.
HOT Activity Since Program's Inception
- Calls - 2497
- Homeless Contacts - 1936
- Individuals Housed - 148
Frank when he was living on the streets. With Frank is Tina Hatcher, an executive with Hope Impacts, a close collaborator with HOT. Tina helped get Frank off the streets and into permanent housing.
Frank's new apartments
Frank in his new apartment
Frank and Tina Hatcher of Hope Impacts after receiving permanent housing.
564,708 people in the U.S. are homeless. According to a recent report, over half a million people were living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing during a one-night national survey last January. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, 358,422 were individuals, and a quarter of the entire group were children.
83,170 individuals, or 15% of the homeless population, are considered “chronically homeless. Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual who has a disability and has experienced homelessness for a year or longer, or and individual who has a disability and has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years (must be a cumulative of 12 months). Families with at least one adult member who meets that description are also considered chronically homeless. As the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains, “While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury, or trauma.”
47,725, or about 8% of the homeless population, are veterans. This represents a 35% decrease since 2009. Homeless veterans have served in several different conflicts from WWII to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of veteran homelessness in the nation (145.8 homeless veterans per 10,000). 45% of homeless veterans are black or Hispanic. While less than 10% of homeless veterans are women, that number is rising.
Source: Social Solutions Webpage 2016's Shocking Homelessness Statistics
Homeless Numbers in Harris County Down. New approaches to solving homelessness, including the implementation of the Harris County Sheriff's Office Homeless Outreach Team, and a surge in area nonprofit activity may have contributed to a decrease in the number of Greater Houston area homeless individuals over the last six years, according to an annual count. Read the article in the Community Impact Newsletter.
People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.Sheila McKechnie
From Basketball Phenom to Homeless: The Tragedy of Mental Illness
Schuye (pronounced Sky) LaRue was destined to be a superstar in the WNBA. She was named ACC Rookie of the Year while at the University of Virginia. She was later selected to the All-ACC First Team. She led Virginia in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field-goal percentage in her first season. She was a candidate for the Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year at the start of her second season. Iconic basketball coach Pat Summitt called her “one of the most impressive freshmen in the country.”
Unexpectedly, she left the University of Virginia in her junior year and went to play in Italy for one year. When she returned from Italy, in 2002, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2003 draft but never played a game for them. She became paranoid and experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. She ended up homeless in Washington, D.C.
Friends, former teammates, and WNBA players have tried to help her but Schuye refuses their offers of assistance. She doesn't believe she is ill.
Pronounced "uh-no-sog-no-zha," anosognosia means "denial of illness." It is a common consequence of brain injuries. Some people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer's disease experience it. Individuals with anosognosia will not take medications or accept help because they do not believe they are ill. If the person is paranoid, he/she will think people who are trying to help them are actually conspiring against them. It is the single largest reason people do not take their prescribed medications. It affects approximately 50 percent of people with schizophrenia and 40 percent of people with bipolar disorder.
HOT deputies James Kelley (left) and Luke Ditta with Donald
HOT Helps Homeless Man Reunite with His Sister in Detroit
Harris County HOT made contact with Donald, 26 years old. Donald has been homeless for the past eight (8) years struggling to find employment. HOT found Donald to be highly malnourished, underweight, and had poor hygiene. He was immediately provided with life sustaining emergency aid items and hygiene care packet. This initial interaction provided the basis for a trusting relationship between Donald and HOT.
Donald was not receiving any social services as he had no forms of identification, a common issue among the homeless population. HOT began providing counseling, mentoring and guidance while communicating on a personal level with Donald. This opened up conversations involving a sister who resided in Detroit. Donald mentioned he hadn’t seen his sister since 2012. Donald attempted to communicate with her via phone but was unsuccessful due to his homelessness.
HOT continued to assist Donald by providing a courtesy transport to the HOPE Center, were he was able to receive food, shower, and new clothing. While at the HOPE Center, Donald was able to reconnect, via phone, with his sister. This connection was emotional for both parties, which led to conversations inviting Donald to reunite with his sister in Detroit. Donald's sister did not, however, have the $187 for the bus ticket.
HOT reached out to the Faith based community who wished to help with the funding of the bus ticket. A homeless advocate, Betty Christian, with Lakewood United Methodist Church, funded the $187. Mrs. Christian further assisted by completing the purchasing process online, which resulted in no money being exchanged between any organizations.
HOT created a Homeless Identification Card for Donald which enabled him to board the bus. He left for Detroit to reunite with his sister on Friday, August 11, 2017. The HOPE Center provided Donald with transportation to the bus station in Houston.
Cypress Creek Initiative
Precinct Four Constables requested assistance from the HCSO HOT to help clean up a homeless encampment under a bridge on Cypress Creek in District One. Precinct Four Constables stated 10 to 15 people were living there. Area businesses and residents complained the homeless individuals camping there were mostly day laborers who drank alcohol and/or smoked marijuana at night. The businesses and residents also stated high school kids would also meet under the bridge after school to smoke marijuana.
One of the campers was a 42-year-old male who appeared to be mentally unstable. He had a known history of mental illness (schizophrenia with violent tendencies) and was non-compliant on his medication. HOT conducted a mental health field assessment on the individual who met the criteria for an emergency detention. Harris County Sheriff's Office Crisis Intervention Response Team Deputy Alvarez was contacted who transported the individual to a medical facility for voluntary admission.
HOT contacted Harris County Flood Control who cleaned all the debris and trash from underneath the bridge. The process took approximately two hours to complete! Several couches and large pieces of furniture had to be cut with a chainsaw to be removed. This was done shortly before Hurricane Harvey. If this cleanup was not conducted the flooding of Cypress Creek could have been worse than it was.
Major Mike Lee (right) and Deputy Luke Ditta talking with homeless individuals about impending Hurricane Harvey.
HOT Helps Homeless Prepare for Hurricane Harvey
The homeless community lacks access to computers and cellular phones preventing them from access to accurate and current information on impending natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. It is crucial to provide the latest updates to the homeless community for personal safety.
There is a large homeless encampment near the James Bute Park, located at 512 McKee Street, Houston, TX. This area consists of numerous camps, tents, and make-shift shelters from cardboard boxes and/or wooden pallets. This area is known to flood quickly, placing homeless lives in great danger. The large amounts of personal belongings, backpacks, boxes, bags, clothing and tents can easily wash away in high water, causing storm drainage issues.
Harris County HOT encouraged the homeless at this location to seek emergency shelter and/or move to higher ground for safety. Several homeless individuals took HOT's advice and packed their belongings to vacate the area. Emergency shelter at the Star of Hope and The Salvation Army was offered.
During operation, Harris County HOT was able to provide courtesy transportation to a 34 year old African American homeless female to Sally’s House-The Salvation Army of Houston, a women shelter, located at 1717 Congress Ave, Houston, TX.
Harris County HOT will continue this operation long after Hurricane Harvey makes landfall. We hope the homeless community continues to remain safe, vigilant, and seek emergency shelter. Harris County HOT will continue to offer services, resources and life-sustaining emergency aid items during this operation.
Homeless Community Forum
Homeless Outreach Team Deputies James Kelley and Luke Ditta participated in a Homeless Community Forum on Thursday, September 21st, at the Northwoods Presbyterian Church. Representatives from the following agencies gave presentations:
- Coalition for the Homeless
- Northwest Assistance Ministries
- 1960 Hope Center
- HOPE Haven
- Harris County Sheriff's Office Homeless Outreach Team
Prior to the presentations, each agency had a table set up to provide the community with information on their respective organization.
Deputies James Kelley (left) and Luke Ditta
Deputies James Kelley and Luke Ditta
Deputy Luke Ditta participating in a panel discussion with other agencies.
Deputy Luke Ditta
Deputy Luke Ditta giving a presentation on the Harris County Sheriff's Office Homeless Outreach Team
Youth Earns Eagle Scout Working with Homeless Outreach Team
Brandon J. Hoff, Jr. is a 15-year-old 10th-grader who earned his Eagle Scout by working with the Homeless Outreach Team. Brandon assembled 500 personal care hygiene kits. These kits are passed out to homeless individuals. Brandon chose this project after hearing about the Homeless Outreach Team on a local NPR radio show and recognized the need to serve those he saw in his own community as well as throughout the Houston area.
Brandon is with Troop 179 at St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in Cypress, TX. He was honored by Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, members of the Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion, and the Homeless Outreach Team on Monday, October 16, 2017.
Brandon hopes to continue to serve his troop and community through high school before studying engineering in Texas or Louisiana. Brandon loves to play guitar and is active in school clubs and his church.
Brandon being presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. In the picture are the hygiene kits Brandon assembled.
Eighty men attended the Homeless Outreach presentation given at the Lakewood United Methodist Church.
Deputies Luke Ditta (left) and James Kelley with Mrs. Betty Christian.
Lakewood United Methodist Church Men's Group
Deputies James Kelley and Luke Ditta gave a presentation on the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) on October 26, 2017. Eighty men attended. Also in attendance was Mrs. Betty Christian, a homeless advocate and partner of HOT. Mrs. Christian assists HOT with funding for bus tickets, prescription medications, hotel rooms, clothing, food, and miscellaneous donations for the homeless.
Also presenting were David Samuelson with Shower Ministry at Lakewood United Methodist Church, Betty Christian, and Dr. Bob Butler with the 1960 HOPE Center.
HOT Helps 18-Year-Old Female Get Off the Streets and Into Housing
On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, the Homeless Outreach Team made contact with an 18-year-old homeless female. Jacqueline has been homeless for the past two (2) years. She was struggling with major depression and anxiety. Jacqueline turned to methamphetamine to self-medicate to cope with her barriers. Jacqueline lacked nutritional needs and hygiene care. She had no Texas identification and therefore was struggling to find services, resources, and emergency shelter.
A HOT identification card was immediately created for her. This card is honored by resources/shelter facilities within Harris County and further approved as a supportive document to help obtain a Texas identification card and/or driver’s license. Jacqueline was able to utilize the facilities at the 1960 HOPE Center, to receive a shower, food, and clothing. The 1960 HOPE Center collaborates closely with HOT as a faith base organization partnership and assists HOT with said needs.
Jacqueline stated she was being approached often on the streets for sex trafficking and prostitution and said she was in need of immediate assistance. Jacqueline accepted shelter/housing at the Covenant House. HOT provided her with a courtesy transport there. The Covenant House will continue to assist Jacqueline with medical assistance, Gold card, psychiatric care, drug/alcohol rehabilitation and permanent housing.
Jacqueline and Deputy Luke Ditta getting Jacqueline's belongings from the HOT van.
Jacqueline in a safe and helpful environment.
Deputy Kelley handing out much-needed emergency items to a homeless Vietnam veteran with PTSD and another consumer in need.
Deputy Luke Ditta (left) and James Kelley with Mrs. Tina Hatcher, Executive Director of Hope Impacts.
The shower and laundry station trailer at Hope Impacts.
HOT Works with Hope Impacts to Help Vietnam Veteran with PTSD
On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, Deputies James Kelley and Luke Ditta worked closely with Tina Hatcher, the Executive Director of Hope Impacts, in Katy, TX, the District IV patrol area. HOT made contact with two consumers earlier in the morning who were in need of life sustaining emergency aid items. The male consumer is a Vietnam Veteran and diagnosed with PTSD. He struggles living within the shelter system as most of the homeless with mental illness, especially PTSD, do.
Deputies Kelley and Ditta contacted Mrs. Hatcher who gladly donated the emergency aid items. The deputies delivered the emergency aid items to the two consumers who were in desperate need of them. The care items consisted of food, hygiene packages, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, back pack, and a small tent. The consumers were highly thankful, blessed and enjoyed the deputies company.
Deputies Kelley and Ditta further assisted Mrs. Hatcher with gathering the donations within her supply room and creating care packages / boxes to be delivered. This was performed at the Hope Impacts store front, located at 802 Dominion St., in Katy, Texas.
Hope Impacts is equipped with a large shower and laundry station / trailer set up in the parking lot for those in need. HOT has informed over 20 + homeless contacts in the past two days of the services available to them through Hope Impacts.
Vietnam Veterans and PTSD
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts:
- Almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans
- As many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
- 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan
- 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans
Suicide Rates Among Vietnam Vets
Suicide rates among Vietnam veterans are the highest of any particular group, according to John Draper, project director of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Of Those Lost in Vietnam
- Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
- The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
- 58,148 were killed in Vietnam, 75,000 severely disabled, 23,214 were 100% disabled, 5,283 lost limbs and 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
- Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21 years old.
- 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.
- Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
- The average age of the men killed: 23.1 years.
Source: US Wings
55-Year-Old Homeless Alcoholic Gets Into Treatment and Shelter
On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, the Homeless Outreach Team made contact with a 55-year-old homeless male who lost everything due to his alcoholism. Deputies Luke Ditta and James Kelley took him to the Open Door Mission, a seven-month program providing help with his alcoholism and safe shelter.
Entering the Open Door Mission. A new start and the beginning of a new chapter of his life.
HOT Deputies Luke Ditta and James Kelley with Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) Deputy Jose Gomez and CIRT Clinician Michael Hawkins providing emergency aid items to a homeless individual during the life threatening cold spell experienced in Houston.
HOT Deputy Luke Ditta providing a warm blanket to a homeless individual who refused to go to a shelter during the winter cold blast.
Ray Walker (fourth from left) of Hope Haven joins HOT Deputy James Kelley and Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) Deputy Jose Gomez and CIRT Clinician Michael Hawkins telling this homeless couple they have been approved for housing and will be leaving this encampment soon.
HOT Responds to Homeless During Life Threatening Weather Event
Houston experienced snow, sleet and ice during the week of January 15, 2018. Temperatures at night dipped into the teens. The Homeless Outreach Team responded to the homeless during this life threatening event by providing warm blankets, assistance in obtaining shelter, and assistance obtaining mental and physical health care.
Contact Us About Our Homeless Outreach Team
Sergeant Willie Hodge
Homeless Outreach Team
Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion