The nation’s fourth-largest city hasn’t solved homelessness, but its remarkable progress can suggest a way forward.
One steamy morning last July, Ana Rausch commandeered a shady corner of a parking lot on the northwest side of Houston. Downing a jumbo iced coffee, she issued brisk orders to a dozen outreach workers toting iPads. Her attention was fixed on a highway underpass nearby, where a handful of people were living in tents and cardboard lean-tos. As a vice president of Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless, Ms. Rausch was there to move them out.
I had come to watch the process and, more broadly, to see Houston’s approach to homelessness, which has won a lot of praise. At first, I couldn’t figure out why this particular underpass had been colonized. The sound of trucks revving their engines ricocheted against the concrete walls like rifle shots; and most of Houston’s homeless services were miles away. But then Ms. Rausch’s team, and a few camp residents, pointed out the nearby fast food outlets, the Shell station with a convenience store, and the Planet Fitness, where a $10 monthly membership meant access to showers and outlets for charging phones.