HOUSTON, Texas - Earlier this year, the City of Houston was poised to remove so-called homeless encampments in and around downtown Houston, banning people from pitching tents in public spaces, including beneath freeway overpasses.
Before the ordinance took effect, a lawsuit claiming the rights of the homeless would be violated was filed, and a federal judge enjoined the city from enacting it.
In Third Ward, next to what's known as the Wheeler Camp, Kayla Ramsey said she's sick and tired of dealing with what those who live in pitched tents are leaving on her property, and now she's having to deal with the city's health department because of it.
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She reported human excrement outside the building where she has her business, in the driveway and directly beside the fence that separates the property from the encampment.
"I called 311. On Monday, I saw a violation notice on my door, saying we have to remove the feces," she said.
Ramsey described it as an ongoing issue since the encampment started nearly two years ago.
"Every morning when I come to work, I find it. They leave toilet paper on the ground, next to our cars, and in the back, there are flies all over it. And we have customers who come here," she said.
She contacted the health inspector who called it a matter of public health, and said while it was a warning rather than a citation, it carried a $2,000 fine unless the offending excrement was removed.
"The property owner was told he had to double-bag it, and then sprinkle lime powder on the contaminated area," she said. "So he did it."
Ramsey doesn't think it's fair, and neither does Houston City Council member Dwight Boykins. He told Ramsey he would speak to the health department about the warning notices, but also said it's a consequence of the court injunction.
"The federal judge has put a stop on that (enforcement of the ordinance) and we need that removed. We have places where the people staying there can go, and live in safety," he added.