Outreach workers for SEARCH interview people living in a tent encampment.Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times.Mike Nichols, left, the president of the Coalition for the Homeless, and Lance Gilliam, the group’s chairman, are trying to persuade landlords to continue renting to tenants who lived in a shelter or on the street.Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Over the past ten years, the County of Houston has been able to rehome over 25,000 unhoused individuals, many of whom have been able to stay in housing after 2 years. Working with county agencies, local health providers, and nonprofits, Houston reduced its number of unhoused individuals by a stunning 63% since 2011. 

Lance Gilliam, 2021 Executive Master of Urban Planning Online (EMUP) graduate, is chairman of the Houston Coalition for the Homeless, an organization that focuses on helping to move homeless individuals into permanent housing with support services.

On housing in Houston and the coalition’s work Gilliam explained, “For most of my life, Houston was a place where anybody could find an affordable home if they were willing to drive far enough from downtown. Partly, we’ve become victims of our own success. Because the coalition was filling these sorts of places with tenants, they became more attractive to investors. Some started saying they didn’t want to rent to us anymore.”

With landlords gaining more money from individuals who do not receive subsidized housing benefits from the government, some landlords have started to rethink renting out apartments to subsidized individuals. In response, the mayor’s special assistant for homeless initiatives has been working closely with the Coalition for the Homeless to help landlords navigate through the various local agencies involved in the housing program. In part due to the Coalition for the Homeless’s help, the mayor’s special assistant for homeless initiatives is hopeful that instead of losing housing locations for the unhoused, they will gain up to 1,000 new units! 

While rehousing does take time, with the aid of the Coalition for the Homeless and other necessary aid organizations, Houston is making huge strides in reducing homelessness throughout the county.

“The skill and knowledge that I learned that was most impactful, probably had to go towards community engagement and then governance, a greater appreciation of how to engage, not only with stakeholders in the community, but particularly other public officials and staffs and learning how they think and tools to help find collaborative outcomes.” – Lance Gilliam, Founding Partner, Waterman Steele Real Estate Advisors & Chair, Houston Coalition for the Homeless

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