Four homeless sleeping on sidewalk injured in chaotic scene

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Four homeless residents injured after a car struck them while they were asleep on a downtown sidewalk were back on the blood-stained pavement early Tuesday nursing their stitches and wounds.

Shane Marse, who was cut on his head, said he was asleep Monday night under Interstate 45 at Pierce and Fannin streets, when he and his friends were hit by a red Chevrolet Camaro that jumped the curb after colliding with another car.

The scene was chaotic, he said.

Those injured were covered in debris and soaked in each other’s blood.

“I thought I was dying,” Marse said, still wearing his blood-splattered shirt. “I knew something wasn’t right about being on this corner, I had bad vibes about it. I was so stupid.”

Marse and his friends arrived at least two weeks ago to look for work in Houston from Louisiana via Greyhound bus.

The crew travels together doing odd jobs in whatever city they can find a job. After arriving in Houston, they decided to stay near the bus station under the bridge.

The incident comes just a few weeks after the city passed an ordinance prohibiting homeless encampments.

The ordinance passed in mid-April and is aimed at curbing panhandling. It was paired with a ban on unauthorized encampments in public places – an effort to crack down on homeless camps.

People who impede the use of a Houston road, or block a sidewalk or building entrance could be charged with a misdemeanor under the ordinance.

It’s still not illegal to sleep on the sidewalk, according to city officials, but some homeless residents near the bus stop said they’ve been forced to abandon areas of the city they once made their permanent homes.

Encampments not far from the crash site were recently dismantled and fences were erected to keep residents out.

Effort draws criticism

City officials in the mayor’s office said that vehicles hitting pedestrians along sidewalks are a rare occurrence and doesn’t create any cause for alarm.

Officials also dismiss any claims the ordinance created a backfire and resulted in an uptick of homeless residents sleeping on sidewalks, placing them in harm’s way.

The area where the crash occurred is a regular hangout and resting place for homeless residents, given its proximity to the bus station, light rail and the McDonald’s, officials said.

The city’s effort to target homeless residents has drawn resident and council member ire.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said in April the new rules strike a “delicate balance” between regulation and helping the homeless. “We want to assist people in getting to a better spot in their lives,” Turner said, vowing to house 500 chronically homeless people within the next six months.

Monday’s collision happened around 11:30 p.m., when a driver with two infants in the back seat told police he ran a red light at Fannin and Pierce, said Victor Senties, spokesman for the Houston Police Department.

Driver distracted

The driver, who was not identified, was arguing with a passenger in his Camaro, Senties said. When the Chevrolet crossed the intersection, it collided with a white Mercedes CLS 550.

The impact caused the Chevrolet to fly up on a curb, hitting the four people who were sleeping on the sidewalk, Senties said.

One of those people was trapped under the Chevrolet, passersby said.

“There’s a man underneath! There’s a man underneath!” people yelled.

Boyce Roberts, who was leaving work at the time of the crash, heard the calls and said he helped lift the Chevrolet off of the injured man.

All four homeless people were injured and taken to area hospitals. One was taken to Ben Taub Hospital with severe but stable injuries. The other three were moved to Memorial Hermann with non-life-threatening injuries, Senties said.

The infants – a 2-month-old and a 1-year-old – who were in the back seat of the Chevrolet – were taken to Texas Children’s Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and the driver of the Mercedes was sent to St. Joseph Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the Chevrolet did not appear to have been intoxicated, Senties said. As of Tuesday afternoon no charges had been filed, but HPD said the crash is under investigation.

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