Addressing homeless concerns in Queen City Park after home caught fire

"People just assume they are homeless," says Kim Pickens a member of Victoria Area Homeless Coalition

VICTORIA, Texas – Homelessness can be caused by various reasons.

Many people endured major changes in this yearlong pandemic.

Kim Pickens, a member of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, expressed that ever since the Victoria City Council voted in 2019 to move forward with the anti-camping ordinance, it has created a lot of issues.

People don’t have anywhere to go.

The anti-camping ordinance prohibits individuals to camp out in residential areas and historic districts in the City of Victoria.

A lot of people that are homeless stay near Queen City Park because Christ’s Kitchen is right there, said Pickens.

Pickens mentioned that there are people with various addictions that get together at the park and people just assume they are homeless.

“People exaggerate and they are frustrated with the whole Queen City Park situation” said Pickens.

On Monday, March 15, Victoria firefighters responded to an early morning fire in the 2100 block of North Cameron in Victoria.

The son of the woman who owns the home that caught on fire shared with Newscenter 25 that they had recent problems with people who are homeless breaking into the home.

Rey Perez confirmed the home was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

The home is also right across the street from Queen City Park.

Perez said no utilities were on when the fire started and no one should have been there.

“Somebody had to start the fire,” Perez said. “Recently, this past weekend, we went over there, boarded up the door, window and everything … it wasn’t in good shape [the home] — our goal was to slowly repair it. We have had problems of homeless people breaking in and staying in there … something set the house on fire.”

Perez grew up in the neighborhood and said it has never changed.

Perez is owner of a local boxing gym and now runs a nonprofit that host various events to help the community.

“You see 15 to 30 people there [Queen City Park] .. a majority of them are homeless,” said Perez.

Perez shared that his most recent event back in November was specifically to help people that are homeless and to highlight a solution rather than a problem.

Newscenter 25 reached out to the Victoria Police Department to confirm if there has been an increase of arrests at Queen City Park this year.

Chief of Police Robert Arredondo confirmed that since March 1, 2020 until now, there have been 11 arrests near Queen City Park.

Below is a list of the offenses provided by the Victoria Police Department:

Criminal Trespass – One arrest

Evading w/ Vehicle –  One arrest

Drug offenses – Two arrests

Aggravated Assault w/ DW – One arrest

Warrant arrest – Three arrests

Public Intoxication – Two arrests

Resisting arrest – One  arrest

Victoria Fire Department Marshal Assistant Chief Legler confirmed that he has no knowledge of people who have recently entered a vacant or abandoned structures to find shelter.

“Looking back on the fires from this winter I was able to identify two structure fires where the buildings were vacant and/or abandoned” said Assistant Chief Legler in an email. “One was in December, and the one today [March 15] and both are under investigation.”

Kim Pickens added that rarely do you see anybody who is homeless starting a house fire.

“It could have been anything or anybody,” said Pickens. “A lot assume that what they see at Queen City Park are homeless and that’s not true.”