Concerns about the city's homeless population were front and center Monday nght at the first of several public meetings as the City and a California based consultant attempts to come up with a plan to deal with the problem today, and a ten year plan to keep homelessness from spreading, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Many residents expressed concerns about homeless people breaking into vacant homes and loitering on street corners and around strip centers.
While the 2019 Point in Time count of the homeless showed San Antonio's homeless population actually shrinking (the 2020 count was just done last week and figures have not been released), suburban residents and Council members have expressed concerns that the problem of the homeless, which used to be limited to the central city, has expanded into major intersections in the suburbs that didn't used to have a homeless problem.
One police report indicted that the homeless are most likely to concentrate around strip centers and major retailers...because they can beg from shoppers and steal food out of the dumpster.
Many citizens expressed concern that even though the city has a world class program for the homeless in the Haven for Hope, people can't be forced to enter the haven unless it is as condition of parole from a criminal offense, and many homeless prefer to stay on 'their' street corners than be subjected to the rules of the Haven for Hope.
Taxpayers currently spend $15 million per year on programs for the homeless. The City and San Francisco based Homebase will hold more public meetings as they try to come up with a plan of action by the middle of this year.
Rebecca Tadefa is one of several taxpayers who showed up to the City of San Antonio’s first Homeless Strategic Plan community forum Monday.
Tadefa said she felt the city needed to have more compassion when dealing with people who are homeless. She said she hopes something will come from the many meetings that are being held.
“I am optimistic because I cannot afford not to be,” she said. “I think that if we give up, then nothing is ever gonna happen.”
Community members across the county are frustrated with the homeless population encroaching their once-safe neighborhoods and plazas.
Jeroen Zilema, from the Dellview Area Neighborhood Association, said residents are dealing with homeless people “breaking into vacant homes to find a place to stay.”
“You see them in our shopping center, and we can’t get rid of them,” he said.
He said programs and services need to be moved out of downtown and into other parts of the community to offer the homeless help.
Residents say they want a solution for the homeless people who don’t want the help and won’t leave their addictions to enter into programs like Haven For Hope.
The City of San Antonio says homelessness is a complex issue, which is why officials contracted California-based company Homebase to take a look at the current problem, system and programs with a fresh set of eyes and come up with better solutions.
The city currently spends $15 million per year on programs that help with housing for families, programs and Haven for Hope. It is paying Homebase nearly $130,000 to conduct the study and come up with a solution by March.
Several other meetings are planned for the community to express concerns and offer possible solutions. Click here to see the list of meetings.