City, County Announce Task Force to Tackle Looming Threat of Evictions, Improve Housing Stability

Jun 17, 2020
City, County Announce Task Force to Tackle Looming Threat of Evictions, Improve Housing StabilityRecovery Czars Marvin Odum and Rep. Armando Walle Launch Effort to Reduce Evictions, Align Resources for Tenants and Landlords, and Help Households Maintain Stable, Safe and Affordable Housing 
HOUSTON – City of Houston and Harris County recovery leaders on Thursday announced the formation of a task force to prevent evictions while bridging gaps in housing stability that have been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Housing Stability Task Force, which will include stakeholders with deep experience in the community who touch all points of the housing stability cycle, will align resources to address evictions while developing strategies and recommendations to strengthen the region’s housing delivery system. Although the city and county each have independent czars leading their respective COVID-19 recovery efforts, city and county leadership decided to unify their efforts to deal with the unprecedented housing crisis through the creation of a joint task force.


“The magnitude of the economic hardship resulting from the pandemic is still unfolding and disproportionately impacts the lower income households in our community,” said Marvin Odum, City of Houston COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Czar. “As an example, the City of Houston’s rental assistance program was fully subscribed after only 90 minutes of being made available. It is important that we pull together the relevant stakeholders to help identify near-term solutions while laying a foundation to address the longer-term, systemic need to build a resilient housing ecosystem. At the same time, we must also keep expectations realistic, as there are simply not enough financial resources nor a sufficient supply of affordable housing stock available to avoid an immense amount of pain and difficulty for individuals, families, neighborhoods, and the broader community.”




“Evictions were a serious issue before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will continue to be of great concern throughout the course of the economic downtown,” said State Rep. Armando Walle, Harris County Recovery Czar. “We unfortunately anticipate a substantial increase in the volume in the weeks and months ahead, and we are determined to make our best attempt at proactive planning to reduce as many as we can. The Houston region had systemic barriers to affordable housing before COVID, and the current crisis has exposed in plain sight the underlying system shortcomings.With key players at the table, working together toward the same end goals, we will structure our efforts to be responsive to the immediate crisis, even as we maintain a firm resolve not to lose sight of the importance of future work required to make housing stability a reality for more people.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and county were already experiencing a shortage of affordable rental housing and high eviction rates, particularly among low-income communities. The pandemic, compounded by a downturn in the energy industry, has intensified the rental housing crisis beyond just very low-income residents. It has also significantly impacted property owners, who face increased economic pressures due to the vast numbers of renters who have suffered loss of employment and income.

The task force will address three pressing needs:Prevent evictions 
Mitigate impacts on tenants and landlords 
Stabilize households for the benefit of public health
On June 3, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called on the county’s Justices of the Peace to delay eviction proceedings until August 24, in line with the federal CARES Act timeline. A state eviction moratorium was lifted on May 19, and the protections offered by the CARES Act apply only to properties with federally backed mortgages.
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The Houston Fire Department Protects George Floyd Service Attendees from Record Heat

Jun 8, 2020
The Houston Fire Department Protects 
George Floyd Service Attendees from Record Heat

Over the past few days the Houston Fire Department’s Special Events Team, under the office of the HFD Homeland Security and Planning Division, have been involved in planning meetings in anticipation of today’s high heat index and large crowds for the Funeral Remembrance of George Floyd.

The Houston Fire Department has staffed medical professionals within the service footprint along with a medical triage tent and a cooling station. The HFD has also coordinated with the American Red Cross to provide hydrating stations for all participants. Along with the 102 emergency transport units staffed every day in the City, the HFD has added six additional transport units and four rapid medical response units staged at nearby location of the funeral service and other coordinated events. The HFD “Ambus”, a multiple patient transport vehicle/bus, is also available at the location if needed. 

Currently, the cooling tent, hydration station and medical staff have managed to reduce patient transports from the George Floyd Funeral Services down to two patients, despite the City’s high-heat index and crowds estimated in the 10-15 thousand.  

If you are considering in participating in any of the upcoming George Floyd Remembrance Services, please follow the summer safety tips below. 

•    Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-replacement beverages.  
•    Avoid beverages or food sources with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
•    Wear wide-brimmed, loose-fitting hat that allows ventilation to help prevent sunburn and heat-related emergencies.  
•    Wear sunscreen to reduce the risk of sunburn.

For more summer safety tips visit www.houstonfire.org

BE SAFE HOUSTON!
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Mayor Turner Mourns the Death of TSU Debate Coach Dr. Thomas F. Freeman and Offers His Condolences to Dr. Freeman’s Family and Former Students

Jun 8, 2020
HOUSTON –  Mayor Turner has released the following statement about the death of Dr. Thomas F. Freeman.

“Last year, I was fortunate to present a proclamation to the incomparable Dr. Thomas F. Freeman on his 100th birthday and name a day in honor of his many accomplishments.
I am deeply saddened by his death. 


“In 2018, I selected Dr. Freeman, as the recipient of the Living Legend Award for the first-ever Mayor’s History Makers Luncheon sponsored by Comcast. As the founding Dean of the Honors College at Texas Southern University, Dr. Freeman indeed was a legendary figure and an inspiration to students for more than seven decades.

“He excelled as a public speaker and demanded excellence of the many students who studied under him to sharpen their skills and develop as members of the debate team. 
Today, students all over the world credit Dr. Freeman for instilling in them strong oratory skills and preparing them to compete at the highest levels, whether that was on a debate stage, in a courtroom, or a corporate boardroom.

“Over the years, well-known politicians, musicians, and actors sought his advice.

“I was on the debate team at the University of Houston during my freshman and sophomore years. But we all knew that TSU had one of the top debate coaches in the world, and Dr. Freeman motivated me to do my very best.

“I extend my prayers and condolences to his family, former students, and the TSU community. 

“There will never be another Dr. Thomas F. Freeman. The remarkable centenarian was a legend in his own time, and the City of Houston will miss him.”
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Surveillance Photo of Person of Interest in Man’s Death at 7720 North Shepherd Drive

Jun 8, 2020
Surveillance Photo of Person of Interest in Man’s Death at 7720 North Shepherd Drive
Houston police have released a surveillance photo of a person wanted for questioning in the death of a man at 7720 North Shepherd Drive about 6:35 a.m. on Sunday (June 7).

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.  He suffered no obvious signs of trauma and his identity and cause of death are pending verification by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

HPD Homicide Division Detectives A. Barr and D. Stark reported:

HPD patrol officers responded to a person down call at an adult video store at the above address.  Upon arrival, they found the victim lying face down in one of the viewing rooms in the back of the store.  

Surveillance video shows an unknown black male with a gray beard and wearing a flat cap style hat and red T-shirt and blue jeans, walking in and out of the same victim’s viewing room before leaving the store in a white Nissan,  four-door sedan. 

Investigators are asking for the public’s help identifying the man, as they would like to question him about this incident.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
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Mayor Turner asks cities across the country to join in tribute to George Floyd and commit to policing system reforms.

Jun 8, 2020
HOUSTON – As the family of George Floyd prepares to hold final memorial and homegoing services honoring his life, Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked mayors across the country to join in solidarity on the issues raised by Floyd’s death while he was in Minneapolis police custody. 

The mayor has requested that mayors illuminate their City Hall or other municipal buildings in crimson and gold Monday night. These are the colors for Jack Yates High School, where Floyd graduated in Houston’s Third Ward.

The mayors of Atlanta, Augusta, Boston, Denver, Jersey City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, Columbia, SC, Tacoma, and Louisville, KY have agreed to participate, and other mayors are considering the request. Mayor Turner serves in a leadership role in both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the African American Mayors Association. Both organizations have prioritized police reform, community policing policies and practices.

“This will pay tribute to George Floyd, demonstrate support for his family, and show a commitment by the nation’s mayors to promote good policing and accountability,” Mayor Turner said. 

Last week, Houston City Hall was illuminated crimson and gold in a tribute to Floyd. And the building will be awash in the same color scheme on Monday, June 8, the night before Floyd’s memorial and funeral. 

Photo credit: City of Houston 

Mayor Turner recently announced plans to create the Mayor’s Task Force on Policing Reform to review Houston Police Department policies, practices, and procedures.
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Suspect Charged, Wanted in Fatal Shooting at 17435 Imperial Valley Drive

Jun 8, 2020
Charges have been filed against a suspect wanted in the fatal shooting of a man at 17435 Imperial Valley Drive about 11:30 p.m. on May 1.

The suspect, Larry Ward (b/m, 20), is charged with capital murder in the 176th State District Court.  He currently remains at-large.  Surveillance photos of Ward are attached to this news release. 

Ward is accused in the shooting death of Damion Demond Mann, 28.  

HPD Homicide Division Detectives J. Nguyen and W. Huff reported:

HPD patrol officers responded to a shooting call at an apartment complex at the above address.  Arriving officers observed a black Ford Mustang traveling at a high rate of speed westbound on Greens Road.  The Mustang crashed onto its passenger side in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant at 251 Greens Road.  The female driver was uninjured, however the passenger, later identified as Mr. Mann, had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.  He was pronounced deceased by Houston Fire Department paramedics.

Witnesses reported Mann had been shot multiple times by an unknown black male wearing a ski mask at the apartment complex.  The suspect reportedly walked up to Mann, shot him at close range and, while his three acquaintances fled, the suspect picked up a large amount of cash laying on the ground.  The shooter then also fled.

The Mustang’s driver, Mann’s girlfriend, was in the area waiting to pick him up.  She heard the gunshots and rushed into the apartment complex to find him.  While attempting to transport Mann to the hospital, she crashed her vehicle.

The suspect was later identified as Ward, and, on May 27, was charged for his role in this case.  

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of  suspect Larry Ward or in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
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Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

Jun 2, 2020

I wish we could say that, because of the COVID crisis, we all get a break from worrying about the potential of a catastrophic storm making landfall this year. Unfortunately, the truth is that hurricane season doesn’t give us the courtesy of waiting until the COVID-19 crisis subsides, so the time to be ready is now. 
We want you to know that even with the enormous amount of work we have been doing to contain the Coronavirus in Harris County, we have also been hard at work behind the scenes preparing for this hurricane season, which begins this week. We’ve achieved a lot of progress over the past year, moving full speed ahead on flood mitigation projects, tightening development and detention standards and working with first responder teams from across the region to prepare for and plan for the worst.
But ultimately, preparing for hurricanes is a partnership among all of us. Including you. Here are three actions we urge you to take today to prepare: 
1. Do an insurance checkup. Did you know that just 1 inch of water can cause $25,000 in damage to your home? Standard home insurance policies don’t cover flooding, so now is the time to check in with your insurance company and make sure you are covered. Keep in mind that new flood insurance policies take 30 days to take effect, so don’t wait. 
2. Build a kit. Many of the items you need for a Hurricane Kit you already have at home, such as non-perishable food, batteries, and a radio. Make sure you have a plan to have any medications you need on hand and a plan and supplies for your pets too. Please see our disaster checklist of supplies on ReadyHarris.org.
3. Know your zone. Now is the time to find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, and if you do, plan where you would go and how you would get there. If you need to evacuate, do you know where you would go? A friend or a relative’s house, for example? We have evacuation routes and zones on a map right now on ReadyHarris.org.
We all know the sort of damage and loss of human life that a big storm can bring, but it doesn’t have to catch us unaware. Please join us in taking the time to prepare for whatever may come this hurricane season

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Mayor Turner recognizes Monday, June 1, as a Day of Mourning for COVID-19 victims

Jun 2, 2020

The City of Houston observes a Day of Mourning to remember those who died of COVID-19.
Mayor schedules conference call with community and faith leaders to discuss ongoing efforts to save lives

HOUSTON –  Mayor Sylvester Turner joined mayors and faith leaders from across the country to recognize Monday, June 1, 2020, as the National Day of Mourning and Lament to honor those who have died of COVID-19.
 More than 100,000 people nationwide and 131 people in Houston have lost their lives as a result of the virus during the global pandemic.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan group representing 1,400 mayors, organized Monday’s somber remembrance. Throughout the nation, cities participated with a moment of silence, by ringing bells coordinated with houses of worship or other events and memorials.
 Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a resolution and scheduled a virtual conference call with Houston faith leaders to discuss the impact of the pandemic, along with the protests taking place in memory of George Floyd.

“Coronavirus has not disappeared just because people are returning to work as businesses reopen. That is why the City of Houston is focused on robust testing and contract tracing,” Mayor Turner said. “By participating locally in the Day of Mourning for COVID-19 victims, we keep their memories alive and remind people to wear face coverings, maintain social distance, and practice good hygiene. Our goal is to save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.” 


On Monday, the Houston Health Department reported 337 new cases of COVID-19, bringing Houston’s total to 7,743. This was a two day cumulative total). The total number of deaths increased 131 people.

For information about COVID-19 or to find a mobile testing site, please go to www.HoustonEmergency.org.

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The City of Houston announces closures and media information in advance of Tuesday’s peace march honoring George Floyd.

Jun 2, 2020
HOUSTON –  Mayor Sylvester Turner will join members of George Floyd’s family and community activists to march from Discovery Green to City Hall Tuesday, June 2, 2020.  
The march is not a city – sponsored  event, but is organized by Houston rappers Trae the Truth and Bun B, among others.
The march is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. at 1500 McKinney St.  In preparation for the demonstration, increased traffic and road closures, all City of Houston facilities located in Downtown Houston are scheduled for early closure. Municipal Courts – scheduled for closure at noon HPD 1200 Travis – scheduled for closure at noonHPW 611 Walker – scheduled for closure at 1 p.m.Central Library/Julia B. Ideson Building – scheduled for closure at 1 p.m.City Hall – scheduled for closure at 1 p.m.City Hall Annex – scheduled for closure at 1 p.m.Houston Permitting Center – scheduled for closure at 1 p.m.MEDIA, PLEASE MAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION City Hall press riser location – lower plaza against Reflection pool wall – see map There will be a mult-box –  at the media riser  Media parking  – City Hall Annex public level – entrance at Walker Street and Bagby St (Theater District Garage #3).   There will be no parking on 400 — 500 block of McKinney St and Bagby St.  HPD will control and direct traffic in those areas.All media should carry identification/especially for parking accessAll media should wear a mask or face covering. Please encourage the crowd to wear face coverings, and as much as possible, maintain social distancing and practice good hygiene.
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Houston Health Department, agency partners announce free COVID-19 test sites for upcoming week

Jun 2, 2020
Houston Health Department, agency partners announce free COVID-19 test sites for upcoming week
The Houston Health Department and its agency partners are announcing new sites offering free COVID-19 tests during first week of June.

Texas Division of Emergency Management
The Texas Division of Emergency Management and the department will open five drive-thru test sites:Robinson Elementary, 12425 Woodforest Blvd., June 1 – 3Herrera Elementary, 525 Bennington Street, June 4 – 6Kashmere Gardens Elementary, 4901 Lockwood Dr., June 1 – 6HCC-Northeast Campus, 555 Community College Dr., June 3 – 6TDEM sites require appointments, available by calling 512-883-2400 or visiting txcovidtest.org. The sites will open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

United Memorial Medical Center
United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) will open a new drive-thru and walk-up test site at the Southwest Multi-Service Center, 6400 High Star. UMMC will continue to offer drive-thru testing at its site at Houston Community College-Southeast, 6815 Rustic. 

Each site will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until reaching its daily capacity of 250 tests. The sites don’t require appointments.

Other UMMC sites opening weekdays are:UMMC Tidwell, 510 W Tidwell Rd., 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.Forest Brook Middle School, 7525 Tidwell Rd, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.Cullen Middle School, 6900 Scott St., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.Griggs School, 801 Regional Park Dr., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.People needing information about UMMC test sites can call 1-866-333-COVID or visit ummcscreening.com.  

Houston Health Department Mobile Unit & Community-Based Sites
The department will set up its mobile unit at the Magnolia Multi-Service Center, 7037 Capitol, June 2 – 6.

Mobile unit testing is set for weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until reaching daily capacity of 100 tests. People don’t need an appointment to get a free COVID-19 test through the mobile unit, which offers drive-thru or walk-up options.

The department also operates two free drive-thru COVID-19 community-based testing sites open to anyone, regardless of symptoms. Each site has capacity for 500 tests per day.

New days of operation for the sites are Monday through Saturday. The sites will close on Sundays beginning May 31.

People can call the department’s COVID-19 Call Center at 832-393-4220 between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to receive an access code and directions to the nearest community-based site or get more information about the department’s mobile unit.

Federally Qualified Health Centers 
The health department is providing test kits, lab access and equipment to four local Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) so they can expand their COVID-19 testing capacity. The centers and phone numbers people can call to set up testing appointments are:
 Spring Branch Community Health Center, 713-462-6565El Centro de Corazon, 713-660-1880Avenue 360 Health and Wellness, 713-426-0027Lone Star Circle of Care at the University of Houston, 346-348-1200 andCommunity Health Network, 281-816-3317.FQHC patients pay what they can afford, based on income and family size, and are not denied services due to inability to pay or lack of insurance.

The department and its agency partners may shift locations and schedules of test sites to better meet community needs. Houstonians can visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 for current Houston test sites and information about stopping the spread of the virus.

Information obtained through testing, treatment or services will not be used against immigrants in their public charge evaluation.
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