Atlanta Road Collapse Fuels Concern Over Houston’s Homeless Camps

Houston homeless camps could be eliminated with an ordinance that criminalizes unpermitted temporary habitation structures.
Image: Flickr

Houston lawmakers will consider two ordinances to address the city’s homeless camps as the state Department of Transportation increases roadway inspections.

HOUSTON — Houston has seen an increase in homeless camps at highway underpasses, intersections and in midtown parking lots. And the fire that led to a highway section collapse in Atlanta prompted the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to perform additional inspections beyond the norm, according to

“Safety is our priority and as such, we will be adding another layer of precautionary inspections to ensure there are no flammable materials being stored underneath these structures,” said a TXDOT statement.

A fire set by an Atlanta homeless man ignited flammable materials being stored under an Interstate 85 overpass, collapsing a major artery into a city with notorious road congestion. The event led to a flood of commuters new to public transportation because the road is expected to be closed for several months for repairs.

The Houston City Council will consider two ordinances — aiming to curb panhandling and homeless camps — next week.

According to, the “questionable” ordinance targeting reductions in homeless camps would criminalize the “unpermitted use of fabric, metal cardboard or other materials as a tent or other temporary structure for human habitation,” as well as heating devices and more belongings than would fit in a container three feet high.

But Mayor Sylvester Turner said that ordinance is part of a homelessness housing plan — an approach to transition the homeless in Houston’s ten cities to supportive housing.

“It’s not writing them a ticket and jailing them, that’s not the answer. We do want to remove these tents. We certainly want to remove any cooking equipment. And the current ordinance says we won’t allow anything that’s larger than 3x3x3,” said Turner.

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Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.