The City of San Antonio will pay a California based firm called Homebase just under $130,000 to study the city's growing problem with homelessness, and come up with solutions, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Northeast Side Councilman Clayton Perry said action on this issue can't come soon enough.
"This issue is the number one issue up in my district," Perry said. "In finding homeless camps, people trespassing, setting fires in areas between housing areas."
While the latest 'point in time' count indicated the total number of homeless people living in San Antonio has actually fallen, there are more homeless families, and the extent of the problem has definitely become more visible.
There were some questions raised about hiring Homebase, which describes itself as "eveloping effective homelessness prevention and response systems." Perry asked whether a company from California truly understands San Antonio's synamics, and wondered whether local officials were in a better position to come up with these solutions.
Others asked if it made sense to hire a firm from California, which has the worst problem with homelessness in the country, a concern that Councilman Manny Pelaez compared to not hiring a doctor because he's been known to deal with sick people.
Homebase says it works with criminal justice, mental health providers, workforce development, and housing development officials to find gaps in the city's existing outreach toward the homeless and to come up with individual solutions.
Melody Woolsey, who is the City's Human Services Director, said any plan will involve working to prevent individuals and families from falling into homelessness to begin with.
"We are starting with homeless prevention," she said. "How can we prevent and divert people from becoming homeless, that is really the most effective and efficient way, and the least traumatic on vulnereable populations.
Southwest side Counciiwoman Dr. Adrianna Rocha Garcia said while many people think the homeless are 'bums' who won't work, the way people become homeless in our society today is significantly more complicated.
"Earlier this morning I learned that a family of eight in my district had been displaced by a fire," she said, adding that the woman who heads the houshold had just paid her rent and has no money to find a new place to live. She said this is more often than not the cause of homelessness.
Homebase is set to have a report issued on the best practices to deal with San Antonio's homeless problem by March, and the solutions will be considered by City Council in April.