Together, we have proven that it is possible to do both at the same time – without risking our safety or quality of life. Since the beginning of my time in office, our District 1 team has focused our efforts on increasing access to housing and providing for the basic needs of San Antonians. COVID-19 has exacerbated the homeless crisis across our city and country, and our most vulnerable populations need our help more now than ever. In order for homelessness to be significantly reduced, San Antonio needs to be ready for a real change in how we approach the issue that focuses on root causes and compassion.
Through a partnership between Our Lady of the Lake University and The Department of Human Services, my request to create a permanent Outreach Specialist position for EACH district and our Downtown has been added to the City’s budget.
The community Outreach Specialist will serve as the primary point of contact for the unsheltered community as well as liaison for the City of San Antonio. These are the professionals who understand how to communicate about available resources, and they will be the ones who offer immediate support to unsheltered individuals seeking help.
What started as a project to clean up trash from an encampment turned into a groundbreaking demonstration of how community outreach programs could reshape the way our City tackles chronic problems.
Through this effort, we were able to work with the Solid Waste Management Department, DHS, and Neighborhood Services to establish a plan to provide support services in the area which outlines both long-term and short-term goals and solutions — dubbed the C.A.U.S.E (Collaborative Action Unifying Safe Environments) Initiative.
In 2019, I lobbied City Council for a mobile shower trailer for the homeless population of San Antonio to be included in the budget. After almost two years of delay, on November 24 2020, officials unveiled the new mobile shower unit, Lavar SA.
While the implementation of the showers was a step in the right direction, more can be done. We are currently requesting that the City mobilize the unit, increase the number of days it is available, and remove unnecessary hurdles.
There is a severe shortage of beds for mental health support, for individuals seeking rehabilitative support, and for individuals fleeing violence. There is an overwhelming list of barriers to entry for folks seeking shelter.
We must treat homeless individuals as people in crisis, not as criminals. The City’s budget is a moral document, and San Antonio has an opportunity to lead by example when it comes to properly funding and supporting social safety-net programs that provide support while also producing long-term results.