City Department Sharpens Goals to Improve Quality-of-Life Outcomes

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A volunteer inspects a temporarily unoccupied camp in San Antonio during the annual point-in-time count of the local homeless population.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

A volunteer inspects a temporarily unoccupied camp during the annual count of San Antonio's homeless population.

When the San Antonio City Council votes next month on the City’s $2.8 billion fiscal year 2019 budget, the spending plan will include a proposal to sustain its longstanding funding for nonprofits and other agencies that provide services to improve the quality of life for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Melody Woosley, the City’s Human Services director, outlined the department’s $130.7 million budget to encourage success for children and families, senior independence, and the end of homelessness. Some services and programs are directly provided by the City while others come from outside groups, such as the homeless services center Haven for Hope, which receives both public and private funding.

For the first time, Woosley said, the department has set clear goals and timelines for the City and so-called “delegate agencies” to achieve – and attached dollars to demonstrating outcomes to the tune of $21.2 million. By using an “equity lens” to focus funding to neglected areas and populations, she added, next year’s Human Services budget is “more compassionate and more intentional.”

While the City previously had general goals to end homelessness or prevent domestic violence, the department now has assigned short- and long-term goals or outcomes that it and delegate agencies will work toward. The department aims to reduce chronic homelessness by 60 percent by 2024.

The fiscal year 2019 budget for the City's Department of Human Services, if approved by City Council, would be the first to establish goals aimed at improving the lives of San Antonio's most vulnerable residents.

Courtesy / City of San Antonio

The fiscal year 2019 budget for the City’s Department of Human Services, if approved by City Council, would be the first to establish goals aimed at improving the lives of San Antonio’s most vulnerable residents.

The City can’t do it all, Woosley said, so it outsources to groups that have the “expertise we don’t have.”

The proposal includes funding for eight agencies and 20 programs that have not been funded in this way by the City before: Autism Community Network, Children’s Bereavement Center, Girls Inc., Literacy San Antonio, Restore Education, Say Sí, THRIVE, and Providence Place. If the spending plan is approved as-is, the City would fund a total of 56 agencies and 83 programs.

Because homelessness is a multifaceted problem, some groups may focus on mental health issues, employment opportunities, housing, or food. Haven for Hope, the City’s largest shelter, provides transitional housing and outdoor sleeping areas in addition to 69 onsite services offered by other delegate agencies that tackle different pieces of the problem. The proposal includes $4.5 million for Haven for Hope and $3.2 million for four of its 187 partner organizations. An additional $2.1 million is given to other service providers.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same kind of collective impact and visioning that SA2020 established in 2012. The nonprofit works towards 11 causes and uses more than a dozen indicators to measure progress toward its goals.

SA2020 has been working with Human Services for about a year to focus the department’s vision and funding with its own metrics, SA2020 CEO Molly Cox told the Rivard Report.

SA2020 works with others to define what element of a problem they can best tackle and what outcome they want, Cox said, and now it’s doing the same for the City.

The City’s mission statement is: “We deliver quality city services and commit to achieve San Antonio’s vision of prosperity for our diverse, vibrant, and historic community.”

“Well, it just so happens we have a vision of prosperity,” Cox said of the SA2020 community visioning process carried out under then-Mayor Julian Castro. “As a nonprofit our drive is to drive progress towards that vision.”

Most of the Human Services budget, $98.6 million, is focused on children and youth success,  including after-school programming, child abuse prevention, and college and career readiness. New this year is $345,000 for a “youth re-engagement center” at Frank Garrett Community Center on the city’s West Side. Another $415,000 in delegate agency funding would be dedicated to providing services there.

About 35,000 area youth ages 16-24 aren’t in school or working, Woosley said, and the center’s goal is connect them to education and employment opportunities. Specifically, the center should engage 600 youth in its first year; 40 percent of those should get college degrees, 20 percent should get jobs, and 80 percent should remain engaged with the center after the first year, Woosley said.

After receiving 123 proposals from various agencies to receive funding, the City undertook a vigorous and transparent selection process, she said.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul sent out an email alert to its supporters Monday asking them to write their Council members a letter encouraging them to allocate funding to the group’s St. Vinnys Bistro, which provides free meals three times a day to Haven for Hope’s courtyard. That’s an average of 1,100 to 1,400 meals per day, according to its website.

“It is a good program. They had a good proposal,” Woosley said, but the request for proposals – awarded to the San Antonio Food Bank – was for meals for the Haven for Hope campus, not for its courtyard.

The City’s budget is expected to appear on City Council’s Sept. 13 agenda. On Tuesday, Council members were generally receptive to Woosley’s funding proposal. The fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

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