The city says only 12 of its 37 facilities have been able to open due to the shortfall. TC Jester swimming pool on the city’s northwest side was one of few open Wednesday.
Lifeguard Jesus Ocegueda said it’s a summer gig he enjoys.
"When I was younger, I had an incident where I was drowning and a lifeguard got me. That kind of inspired me to become a lifeguard," he said.
Leroy Maura, the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Aquatic Supervisor, said finding people like Ocegueda have become few and far between.
“For the first time in the last two years, we've had very much an issue with lifeguarding and keeping guards on board and even recruiting guards," Maura said.
Maura said they usually recruit about 180 lifeguards each summer. He said they currently have 40 lifeguards.
“There are no applicants,” he said.
Maura said they’re currently rotating lifeguards to different locations throughout the week.
He said in years past they’ve been able to recruit at local high schools.
“Since the pandemic, we were not able to get in for good causes, safety, health but that has impacted the City of Houston’s ability to hire lifeguards in the summer," Maura said.
Maura also pointed to the available job market.
"When I talk to our young guards on staff we talk about them bringing a friend. The reply I get from them is they say they rather not do this they rather work inside. I think this has something to do with it," he said.
City of Houston lifeguard position pay ranges between $13 and $17 per hour based on experience.
City officials are continuing to look at new ways to keep lifeguard chairs filled and swimming pool gates open.
The city is offering a $150 signing bonus for new employees. Maura said they’re looking at potentially increasing pay as an additional incentive.
"What keeps me coming back is knowing that I’m going to be there to provide more safety,” Ocegueda said.