Cities » Houston
Facts and Figures
Houston was founded more than 150 years ago by the Allen brothers, frontier explorers who stood on the grassy banks of Buffalo Bayou and dreamed of what today is modern Houston.
Houston is America’s fourth-largest city, with a population of 2.09 million people located in an area more than twice the size of Rhode Island. There are almost 6 million people in the greater metropolitan area. More than 100 different ethnic groups reside in Houston’s city limits, making it one of the world’s great multi-cultural urban centers.
Houston is the headquarters for America’s manned space flight effort, capital of the international energy industry, home to the world’s largest medical center, and a showcase for contemporary commercial architecture.
Did You Know That…
Houston is home to the two-time National Basketball Association champs the Rockets.
New Orleans isn’t the only American city that hosts a Mardi Gras celebration. Galveston Island, just outside of Houston, holds its own annual Mardi Gras gala. Houston is annual host to the largest and richest rodeo in the world.
The NASA Johnston Space Center (where you can try your hand at landing a space shuttle simulator) is located in Houston.
More than 3.8 million patients visit the Texas Medical Center each year, 15,000 of whom are from outside the U.S.
People, Problems, Issues
Houston possesses the third highest homeless population in the nation. An estimated 15,000 homeless individuals live in shelters, abandoned buildings, in encampments, and on the streets. Among these, 1,500 are children.
More than 760,000 Gulf Coast residents live in poverty. 150,000 are marginally homeless—taken in by friends or family because they have nowhere else to go. An additional 250,000 are only one paycheck away from being out on the streets.
In the greater Houston metropolitan area, one child out of every five lives at or below the poverty level.
Insights on the City
by Greg Pennington (former City Director and Vice President of Staff)
Houston is a city built on the “old boy” network. Things get done and deals get made this way, and woe to the newcomer who tries to get around this blockade. You can see this in the restructuring of political districts, city annexations like Kingwood and Clear Lake, and the awarding of city contracts. The revitalization of downtown Houston with its new restaurants and loft conversions has been dependent upon the powers-that-be to make it happen. No where is this seen more clearly than in the new downtown baseball stadium—home to the major-league Astros. A group of city leaders got together to pledge money and support—seemingly altruistic in nature, but finally rewarding in truth. The referendum on the new stadium passed with just a 52% majority.
Allen Parkway Village, a public housing project built in the 1940’s, was recently demolished after years of legal battles. Several residents, who refused to leave the project, filed suit after suit to stop the demolition unless firm plans were developed for replacing the Village with affordable housing. The homeless in Houston don’t fare much better. The city government is yet to establish consistent policy, alternating between allowing homeless persons to sleep on the streets, then initiating sweeps, where the homeless are pulled off the streets and into a variety of shelters.
A “zero tolerance” policy designed to keep youth gangs off the streets has worked to remove these teenagers from the public eye (except for the prolific graffiti that covers much of Houston). Yet, the courts and jails are crammed full of these kids, whose violent behavior continues to plague parts of the city.
However, all is not doom and gloom. There are many bright spots in Houston. People, through their corporations and their churches, are banding together to help make the city a better place tolive. House rehabilitation, community service, and distribution of food and other resources are all avenues in which Houstonians are participating in increasing numbers. A spirit of cross-cultural support exists in these churches and community development agencies. Houston has not seen the polarization between races that is common in other U.S. cities. People of color in Houston, in cooperation with those from other ethnic backgrounds, are attempting to rise out of oppression and prejudice in positive ways—largely through the efforts of local churches.
I believe that the answer to much of Houston’s problems lies in the continued partnership between churches and communities to break down the walls of fear, pride, prejudices, cynicism, and greed that separate us. When I see groups of CSM students playing with and working alongside kids and adults from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, I see hope for the city and its people. We Christians should reconsider the huge Family Life and Worship Centers that we often erect on our church properties and consider channeling our time, money, and energy into ministries that can make a real difference in the inner-city, partnering with brothers and sisters of other races and backgrounds who desperately need the financial and human resources we can offer to continue their ongoing ministries of hope and justice.
CSM Ministry Site Sampler
Kids’ Meals is a meals-on-wheels program that feeds hungry children who are 2-6 years old. From two locations, they deliver over 1,200 lunches daily (5 days a week) to kids in the community whose siblings are part of the free-lunch program in the public schools, or whose families have a very low-income. CSM groups help to make lunches in one location, and deliver them from a second location.
The Harbor Light Salvation Army, a men’s shelter and rehab center, houses over 200 homeless men each night and has 180 men involved in their Christ-centered recovery program. CSM groups enjoy hearing testimonies from men who are experiencing victory over addictions before serving dinner to transitional clients and to those in the program.
Rainbow Housing Settegast is a community learning center that works to improve computer access, promote health, advance literacy and educational attainment, and create employment/volunteer opportunities for disadvantaged, minority adults, children, and seniors living in low-income and Section 8 apartment communities. CSM groups support the efforts of the very small site staff by engaging with the kids in the program relationally. Be prepared to be creative & high energy!
Lord of the Streets is an Episcopal Church that strives to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the homeless in Houston. They provide clothing, counseling, vouchers for food, and referral services. On Sunday mornings Lord of the Streets worships together in a service that is organized and attended by the homeless. CSM groups participate in the weekday morning bible study that is open to anyone coming in off the streets, and then complete a work project on site.