Nirenberg: City Must Attack "Root Causes' of Homelessness

Mayor Nirenberg says San Antonio can avoid the horrible problems facing Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the problems which are growing in Austin, by moving down to address the root causes of homelessness, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Homeless is beginning to emerge in all areas of the city, including areas which have previously not seen homeless encampments, which have previously been isolated to the central city.

Northeast side Councilman Clayton Perry and northwest side Councilman Manny Pelaez have both been moved to action by concerns expressed by their constituents, who aren't used to seeing homeless people panhandling near schools and shopping centers in their neighbors.

But Nirenberg says simply calling in the police to drive away the homeless is ineffective.

"If we take our eyes off of this issue for one moment, it is just going to get worse," he said. "We have to address root causes."

He says in San Antonio, homelessness is largely driven by the rising cost of housing, the city's historicaly low wages, and by transportation challenges, which make it more difficult for people to get to jobs that could prevent them from becoming homeless.

"It is not as the crisis level that we see in other cities," Nirenberg said of San Antonio's growing problem of homelessness. "Fro us it is unacceptable, but for us we are working in many different areas, but mainly through housing affordability."

Unlike homelessness in places like Los Angeles, the bulk of San Antonio's homeless people are believed to be from here. Several programs are in place to address homelessness through programs which help people who are on the edge stay in their homes, by helping them pay rent, utility bills, and deal with other problems before they result in a family becoming homeless.

Gentrification in previously low income neighborhoods like Dignowity Hill on the east side, which used to be filled the affordable housing, is also a problem.

Councilman Roberto Trevino's 'Under One Roof' program also seeks to tackle the issue by having the city do minor repair on homes which are owned by disabled or low income people, to prevent the homes from becoming unlivable and the people in them becoming homeless.

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