Commissioners Allocate $3.1 Million to Housing, Infrastructure Projects

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Haven for Hope President and CEO Kenny Wilson speaks with long-time resident Patrick Lorio. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Haven for Hope President and CEO Kenny Wilson speaks with a resident. Haven for Hope was one of 14 entities to receive money from Bexar County through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Haven for Hope received $100,000 in federal funding after Bexar County commissioners approved 14 projects to receive $3.1 million at their Tuesday meeting.

Haven for Hope, which provides shelter and services to homeless people, was one of 14 entities to receive money from Bexar County through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Bexar County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the projects recommended by county staff.

Haven for Hope President and CEO Kenny Wilson thanked the commissioners for their financial support of Haven for Hope. The county grants $1 million to the organization each year, but this is the first time they have granted it funding from HUD, Wilson said. Haven for Hope plans to add about 220 more beds within its buildings, he said.

“We are completely full right now. … It’s families that come to us every day that say, ‘We’re living in a car with our children.’ We’re full, and we don’t turn any children away, ever,” he said. “Haven is growing, and we appreciate the support from the county in a great way and for all the moral support as well.”

The HUD grant money will go specifically to operate a database that Haven for Hope maintains with other area organizations that work to help people struggling with homelessness, Wilson said. The database is shared by 46 organizations and keeps track of individual records for case managers at each location. County commissioners allocated $100,000 to Haven for Hope for the database, which costs about $700,000 each year to maintain.

“It’s very expensive, but it’s important to track those that are homeless so we can get them to the right provider,” Wilson said.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff used Haven for Hope’s request for funding as an opportunity to tout the county’s consolidation of magistrate services with the City of San Antonio.

He told Wilson that the new magistrate system kept people who needed mental health services out of jail so that they could seek help from organizations like Haven for Hope. The City took over all magistrate services on May 1, and the contract lasts until next year. In May, the County recorded a 131 percent in the number of magistrate hearings attended by a public defender compared to attendance in April, 71 mental health diversions of arrested individuals compared to 31 in April, and a decrease in the jail population by 351 inmates compared to last year.

“We’re trying to make things easier for you,” Wolff said to Wilson. “… We are not a mental health institution. We are not a drug treatment center. We are not a homeless center. A jail is not those things.”

Haven for Hope received its funding from the Emergency Solutions Grant, which assists homeless or people at risk of being homeless. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul received $87,000 from the same grant.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides money to help develop viable urban communities and expand economic opportunities for low- to moderate-income individuals. County commissioners allocated $2.3 million in CDBG funding, including $181,000 to the City of Converse for a senior community center. The City of Balcones Heights received $300,000 to improve Vivian Lane, the City of Somerset received $300,000 to improve K Street, and Universal City received $300,000 for drainage improvements. 

The Home Investment Partnerships Program develops and expands the supply of affordable housing, and commissioners allocated $587,000 from that grant to Habitat for Humanity for a project on Watson Road.

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