San Antonio Stakeholders Tackle Homelessness

Cardboard house
Cardboard house/Getty images Chanin Nont

The City of San Antonio and various community partners operate a range of programs intended to prevent people from becoming homeless and assist those experiencing homelessness with finding permanent housing.

San Antonio maintains a 10-year program called the Strategic Housing Implementation Plan, or SHIP. Among the various programs available are eviction-diversion plans that help people navigate eviction courts and find solutions that keep them housed and programs that use taxpayer money to help cover or reduce rent for people unable to pay.

“Preventing someone from becoming homeless in the first place is a lot easier and a lot more cost-effective for our tax dollars than it is trying to deal with homelessness that’s already occurred,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said when speaking with KSAT in a recent interview. “Scaled up through the pandemic, we were able to prevent almost 65,000 families from being out on the street. So we had one of the most successful emergency assistance rental programs in the country.”

San Antonio’s Haven for Hope is a well-known operation that tackles homelessness on various fronts. The organization is known for its efforts to provide services and training to individuals experiencing homelessness so they can find permanent housing, good-paying jobs, and stability.

The nonprofit’s “one-stop-shop” homeless services model, which has transformational social services offered on the same campus where transitional housing is maintained, has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in the city’s downtown area.

Polling conducted by The Dallas Express suggests that roughly three-fourths of Dallas voters think homelessness, vagrancy, and aggressive panhandling are “major” problems in Dallas. Respondents also appeared to support Haven for Hope’s homeless solutions model.

Among the long-term housing solutions Haven for Hope offers is a program with landlords that sets rent based on income rather than market value. Residents must follow certain rules, but once in the program, there is no sunset. The arrangement makes it increasingly likely that people will find stability and future success.

“As long as they don’t get terminated from the program, which is they just follow their lease and family obligations through Opportunity Home, no criminal activity, they can’t add people to their unit without getting approval first, and then normal lease obligations,” said Ashley King, housing director of Haven for Hope, per KSAT.

King said that one year ago, it would take six months to get a family into housing. Since then, through strategic partnerships such as the one with Opportunity Home, the length of time has decreased to one to two months.

“We need more landlords with affordable units that are accessible to our clients and accessible to voucher holders. Landlords don’t have to take that voucher,” King said.

She noted that San Antonio needs more shelter space in addition to more landlords to help fill the need for stable housing. As housing prices have risen, wages have not caught up, purportedly leading to a rise in homelessness.

“We’ve been over capacity with families for over a year, which means we have families in our emergency services with is overflow basically. As a community, I think we need to look at what that shelter family capacity is going to look like over the coming years, considering the pattern that we’re seeing with the economy and our families, our population,” King said, according to KSAT.

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