Council to Consider Funding for Homelessness Mitigation Funding Plan

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Haven for Hope residents attend the Housing and Resources Fair. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Haven for Hope residents attend the Housing and Resources Fair in July 2016.

The San Antonio City Council is taking steps to mitigate homelessness by considering a $200,000 expenditure to hire a consultant to develop a comprehensive homelessness services study and funding plan.

The Council will vote on the measure, which will use savings realized through the routine mid-year budget review process, next week.

City staff already has met with stakeholder groups from more than 25 organizations, including the business, tourism, faith, and homeless service provider communities, to discuss ways to provide sustainable funding for Haven for Hope, the city’s primary homeless shelter, and other efforts. Suggestions include increasing parking fees, river barge tickets, and creating a new electronic scooter fee. Those stakeholders will continue to discuss options this summer.

The search for longterm homelessness mitigation funding for Haven for Hope was initiated in December 2018 after Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) led an unsuccessful attempt to carve out dollars from an industry-imposed tax on hotel nights. Tourism leaders and a majority of City Council balked at the idea but pledged to find another source of sustainable funding.

Most Council members on Wednesday were receptive to funding the study.

The mid-year review also was an opportunity to look ahead at the City’s financials, which face challenges in the next two fiscal years, said Budget Director Justina Tate, but will become “structurally balanced in 2022.”

Until then, there will be very limited funding for additional spending priorities on top of the existing services the City provides – unless City Council decides to cut programs or services.

In addition to considering funding for homeless mitigation, the Council also agreed to consider adding staff to assist with large re-zoning projects, staff to livestream Council committee and board meetings, funding for Ella Austin’s youth programming, six positions in Development Services, $500,000 to replace the Convention Center roof after weather damage, $500,000 for Visit San Antonio, and $2.4 million to help Haven for Hope renovate a building that will serve 500 homeless people annually. The adjustments represent nearly $4 million combined.

However, there were at least $18 million in unfunded, new initiatives suggested by Council for next year, including 25 new police officers, 42 new firefighters, two fire trucks, EMS units, and a possible property tax homestead exemption that Council will discuss during the budget process. Maintaining other services as-is, the City projects it will have $3.1 million for such policy issues.

Districts 2, 4, 6, and the mayor’s seat are currently embroiled in runoff campaigns for the June 8 election and the new Council’s first budget goal-setting session is slated for June 21. Who wins those seats will have a large impact on how the next two budgets are formed. Citizens also have a say through online and in-person feedback avenues hosted by SA Speak Up, the City’s public engagement program.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and others expressed an interest in increasing the cost of living adjustments for non-uniformed City employees. Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who is running for mayor, agreed but said the City should further increase the number of police officers.

Some City Council members, including Clayton Perry (D10) and Brockhouse, have lobbied for a property tax homestead exemption, which would reduce the City’s budget. Meanwhile, the State Legislature is poised to implement stricter property tax revenue caps that would undermine the city’s ability to take in more than 3.5 percent of tax revenue growth.

The City’s Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell said if a revenue cap had been implemented during the past 10 years, the City would have lost out on $137 million in revenue and save the average homestead homeowner $20 per year.

The cap reduces the City’s ability to recover from a recession, Gorzell said, and provide services for a rapidly growing region.

City Council will vote on the mid-year budget adjustments on Thursday, May 16. It’s slated to vote on the fiscal year 202o budget on Sept. 12.

Click here to download the informational presentation given to City Council.

15 thoughts on “Council to Consider Funding for Homelessness Mitigation Funding Plan

  1. Haven for Hope needs to be shuttered. Most of the indigents aren’t even locals. Every, southern city particularly, that aids and abets homeless folks ends up attracting them from all over the country. It’s a noble gesture with nothing but negative consequences. It doesn’t work and the homeless make PERMANENT housing out of what was supposed to be temporary help. The sentiment is good the solution makes things worse.

    • The City must also consider the cost of running St. Vinnys Bistro, the kitchen that feeds Courtyard members. It is a separate entity that produces 1000 meals daily. It needs funding also and can’t rely 100% on donors goodwill.

  2. Why don’t they meet with local non-profits on this idea? There are some many knowledgeable people working in this area and they could save $200,000 for use in fixing the issues.

  3. San Antonio doesn’t need another study. It needs more housing to help those without it. I think if you ask haven for hope or other shelters they can effectively tell you specifics on what type helps best.

  4. I would argue that Haven for Hope is working and needs to be supported. I have worked as a volunteer there and have been impressed by the comprehensive approach they take to dealing with this present fact of a homeless population. As regards shuttering the facility and attracting people from all over the country, San Antonio seems to be striking a good balance. We absolutely need the facility. We are not inundated by encampments under the freeways, on road medians, in the parks, on the sidewalks. We are not overwhelmed with public drug addiction, assaults, mountains of trash, shoplifting. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and other cities ARE inundated and overwhelmed. Law enforcement in San Antonio is not prevented from dealing with illegal public behavior, has a place they can send people and do. A visit to a city with a truly escalated homeless problem is eye opening and makes one appreciate the approach the city of San Antonio has been taking.

  5. Everyone who thinks they are an expert believes that housing is the issue. Housing is not the issue. Look at L.A., Seattle, and other cities all across the nation that are experiencing homelessness. The #1 issue is substance abuse (either alcohol or drugs). You can house all day long and all you will have is a housed addict. I work with homeless veterans and know full well the issues that plague this population. Go ahead and conduct a study at Haven. You will discover that nearly 100% have a history of chronic substance abuse that led to homelessness. All one has to do is see how many homeless people already in a residential program have a history of using meth, crack, weed, spice, climax, and alcohol? The numbers will surprise you. What do you think??? 10%? 25% 50%? Try nearly 100%. This is the common denominator. We can throw good money at getting the homeless housed till the rooster crows, but if we continue to turn a blind eye to the real issue that plagues this population, then we are guilty of misappropriating good money. Lastly, there are other good programs other than Haven for Hope. Don’t simply focus on Haven. What about AGIF-NVOP and SAMM and Salvation Army? I wonder if the city council will turn away from Salvation Army since Chick-fil-a supports them. wink wink.

    • This is not true. The cities you mentioned have a housing shortage, especially in permanent supportive housing, low-income housing that provides services. Not 100% of homeless have addiction problems. Many people that are homeless who do have addiction issues started having them after their homelessness status. You a blatantly shaming and stereotyping people. And, even if someone does have addiction issues, they still deserve to have a roof over their heads and it would be best for everyone if they had some stability and assistance.

      • I’m not arguing that they don’t deserve a roof over their head, but most are not ready for that responsibility. So what is the percentage? Have you done your research? That’s not shaming, it’s stating a fact.

        • The problem is that San Antonio’s political establishment and a constellation of activists and service providers have created a system that incubates drug abuse, refuses to enforce relevant laws against criminal trespassing and small amounts of drugs and or the quality of life crimes associated with it, and then everyone is somehow surprised when the problem of drug-related homelessness swells instead of shrinks. This will occur if we don’t address the root issue.

  6. $ 200,000 to spend on a consultant for homelessness??? another reason why every sa citizen should be voting for Greg Brockhouse for Mayor….Mayor Nirenberg is leading the way in unnecessary expenditures on consultants, advisors and the rest of the lawyer/bureaucrat “swamp” that inhabits the halls of governments.

    Where oh where is CA Stubbs now??

  7. You don’t need to spend 200,000 dollars to know most of the homeless are substance abusers.Get them into rehab!

  8. Not more money wasted on a study!!! Take that money and treat as many as you can by giving them something to do that helps them build the satisfaction of contributing to solving the problem in the first place! Nothing like knowing you have put in a good days work and someone else is better off because of what you did! Studies are for the over educated that need to be kept busy but get paid to do so.

  9. James stated in a post above, “As regards shuttering the facility and attracting people from all over the country, San Antonio seems to be striking a good balance. We absolutely need the facility. We are not inundated by encampments under the freeways, on road medians, in the parks, on the sidewalks. We are not overwhelmed with public drug addiction, assaults, mountains of trash, shoplifting. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and other cities ARE inundated and overwhelmed.” While we may not be at the level of Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, we are heading in that same direction with the Mayor and other liberal city council members leading the way. They see this issue as a housing and inequality issue, but it is so much more than that. It is a substance abuse and mental health issue. By the way, where are we going to house all these people? In what neighborhood? What part of town? It’s one thing to put a person in housing that is addicted and struggled with mental illness, it’s another thing for them to sustain their housing. If housing was the issue, then why haven’t those other cities already done that since they are ahead of all the rest of us. Lastly, whether you realize it or not, there are encampments all across the city. Participate in the PIT Count and go out with the VA and SAPD. Many of the encampments are near neighborhoods and schools. I do not hear anyone in city council even addressing that issue. I checked with Pelaez and all he proposes is placing signs telling people not to give money to the homeless. This too is a waste of tax payer money.

  10. Haven for Hope receives millions each year from the City without a RFP process, and they do not practice National best practices. Best practice is housing first and not combining homeless families with chronically homeless men. They make homeless men with addiction sleep outside inside a fence. I hardly call this a shelter. They make people who are chronically homeless go through a process that can take months before providing them housing. If they screw up once or twice, they are kicked out of the program and not assisted for housing. The city needs to do a RFP process with their funds and fund providers and agencies based on proven positive outcomes and use of National best practices rather than throwing millions at an agency that isn’t helping everyone that comes through their doors.

  11. Dawn, this is also what happens when the city is inundated with a homeless crisis. Housing first sounds nice and is ideal. I will not argue that, but I will argue that treatment must get addressed. While this may not be true for some, it is still a very small portion of this population while the majority do have very serious substance abuse problems. As I said earlier, you can house a homeless person with an addiction problem and you will have completed a temporary solution.

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