Pastor looking to aid homeless with Port Arthur land agreement proposal

Published 12:20 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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A local pastor who has aided homeless individuals in Port Arthur is hoping to partner with the city in finding a location for an encampment.

The Rev. Keith Richard of New World Harvest Church brought his concerns and a resident of an encampment he has helped to a recent city council meeting.

The homeless encampment across from the Twin City Highway Walmart was dispersed by the property owner, and Richard did what he could to help.

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They are now located, illegally, on another section of Twin City Highway behind Waffle House and Sonic.

His hope is to lease a piece of land from the city and allow the individuals experiencing homelessness to set up camp there. With the help of his church and other organizations, such as Gulf Coast Health Clinic, the individuals would receive food, drug abuse counseling and more.

Richard would like to see a double wide mobile home on the property, where people can use the facilities and wash and dry their clothes, lounge and get out of the heat and cold.

The actual address of the property was not mentioned.

Chris Williams, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, is one of the individuals from the encampment. He said he keeps drugs out of his camp, or tries to, though some of the camp comes and goes as people move on.

Then there are the weekend people who leave their homes and go on a spree, causing problems for others. They are not associated with William’s camp, he said.

Richard said one of the problems of the homeless is they do not have income or they have very low income. Some organizations require a person to have a certain amount of income for assistance or have a permanent address — these individuals do not.

The encampment Richard is assisting isn’t the only one in the city. There are others on Jimmy Johnson Boulevard, behind the Medical Center of Southeast Texas and near Gulfway Drive.

In addition, there is a rumor among the camps that a “drop off” will occur and another 200 to 300 people experiencing homelessness are on the way to Port Arthur.

The city has discussed, one several occasions, the formation of a Homeless Coalition. The group was created some time ago but is not active.

City Manager Ron Burton asked the council to reactivate the coalition in order to work on the issue of homelessness.

The topic will likely be discussed in a future scheduled meeting.