SAN ANTONIO — The latest report from Mayor Eric Johnson’s task force on homelessness indicated that homelessness and vagrancy ticked up significantly over the last decade, despite the work of a dispersed coalition of nonprofits trying to reach people on the street.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, a poll conducted in 2022 found that Dallas residents favor a “one-stop-shop” services strategy to mitigate the effects of widespread homelessness and vagrancy in the city.
The Dallas Express saw such a strategy in action last weekend at the Haven for Hope campus in San Antonio, an operation that has been at the center of the city’s response to homelessness and vagrancy for more than 12 years now.
Haven for Hope and its 180 partner organizations offer emergency shelter and a wide array of social services all in one location, just across the interstate from Downtown San Antonio. While the question of housing operates in a bifurcated manner, food and myriad medical services are made available to both homeless people and residents in nearby lower-income neighborhoods, according to Haven for Hope’s vice president of transformational operations, Alberto Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and his colleague — Terri Behling, director of communications for Haven for Hope — gave The Dallas Express a tour of the campus.
A security gate separates a lot of the more outward facing social services from the campus interior, where homeless people can enroll in Haven for Hope’s housing program, which has enough lodging to house more than 1,000 individuals, including entire families. The organization’s “clients” are provided a private room and three meals a day.
In addition to providing shelter, Haven for Hope is set up to help individuals experiencing homelessness by offering in-house services for substance abuse and trauma, as well as equipping them with the important skills necessary to stay off the streets.
“We have an entire income and skills development team that works with people …. We have a GED program, different training programs, we take clients to career fairs, and we’ve also posted career fairs here where clients are hired right on the spot,” Behling said.
“When you are on the transformational campus side, there’s an expectation that you are actively engaged in your housing and income plan … but there’s no time limit on any part of campus for how long somebody can stay,” Behling added, noting that some of the people Haven for Hope services are sober and gainfully employed but still living on campus because of long waitlists for housing vouchers. “We have people who are here and that’s all they’re waiting for.”
Haven for Hope also provides shelter and food for individuals that are not ready to enroll in the program. The property’s “Courtyard” can be accessed outside the main housing campus by individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
According to an economic impact report, Haven for Hope has made a significant dent in San Antonio’s homelessness problem:
“After one year upon graduating from Haven for Hope, [92%] of these graduates remain in housing. … Ultimately, this has resulted in a 77% reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness in downtown San Antonio since Haven for Hope opened.”
The Dallas Express will detail more about its tour of the campus in subsequent articles, as it continues to cover the issues surrounding homelessness and vagrancy in Dallas.