New Homeless Alliance Director Pulls From Personal Experience to Effect Change

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San Antonio Regional Alliance for the Homeless Executive Director Brenda Mascorro

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Regional Alliance for the Homeless Executive Director Brenda Mascorro.

The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH) last Wednesday announced Brenda Mascorro as its next executive director. Mascorro succeeds the nonprofit’s founding executive director, Bill Hubbard, who retired at the end of June.

Mascorro brings to SARAH significant experience in affordable housing, fund development, policy research, and organizational advancement. She served as the director of development for PROSPERA Housing Community Services, a supportive housing organization offering wraparound services to residents including food, clothing, and educational assistance programs, and completed research on foster care youth and how they are impacted by housing policy and program requirements.

She has served on the SARAH board of directors since 2017.

In an interview with the Rivard Report, Mascorro spoke about how she got involved in local homelessness prevention efforts and what measures can help ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Rivard Report: Why did you choose to work in homelessness prevention?

Brenda Mascorro: I grew up in a housing project in Laredo. My mother passed away from cancer when I was 12 years old, and my siblings and I were made to vacate the unit [we lived in] shortly thereafter. By the time I was 14 years old, I had experienced frequent homelessness, and I think about that experience every day.

During that time, I had some crazy things happen to me, which is one reason why I am passionate about helping this population. Another reason is because at that time, a network of caring community members came together to help me and provide me with the support I needed to stay positive and be successful. That is what excites me about this job – it is an opportunity to bring the community together to help and empower individuals out of situations like [ the one] I was in.

RR: What are the greatest areas for improvement when it comes to homelessness in San Antonio?

BM: Coordinated entry is one thing that we could really work on. We need to make sure that we are all asking the right questions the right way. For example, if one organization’s intake form asks, “Were you homeless before this?” while another asks, “Did you have a house last night?,” it may yield two very different answers, which impacts the accuracy of our data. Without accurate data, we are unable to identify the seriousness of homelessness in our city or the impact of supportive services.

We also need to work to get ahead of the game. There are other major cities in Texas and the nation where, when you travel to a big conference you can tell right away that homelessness is a big problem because its blatant and visible. San Antonio has the opportunity to start having conversations so we can be proactive about coordinating care and providing services, instead of having to be reactive in five years or so.

RR: What is San Antonio doing well regarding its homelessness prevention initiatives?

BM: I am impressed by the network of care for the city’s homeless population, especially the fact that the San Antonio Police Department and [Bexar County] Sheriff’s Office are so actively involved. San Antonio has it right at a time when lot of other cities and counties throughout the U.S. believe that they can arrest their way out of homelessness. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus both serve on the SARAH board, and they keep abreast of the trends and concerns affecting the homeless population.

RR: What needs to be done to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring?

BM: It is really going to take the whole village. We need the service providers to continue to work together, and we need community members to recognize the impact that homelessness has on the community. I don’t think that people realize the impact it has on our health systems, neighborhoods, our tax dollars, and our bottom line. A lot of folks look the other way when it comes to the homelessness issue, but it impacts everyone.

6 thoughts on “New Homeless Alliance Director Pulls From Personal Experience to Effect Change

  1. for the areas of greatest improvement in SA for serving the homeless, too bad she didn’t mention/describe housing first – this is severely lacking here and is a more cost efficient and humane way of serving the chronically homeless, https://endhomelessness.org/resource/housing-first/

    Haven for Hope requires the homeless to “successfully” go through their programming prior to being placed into housing, and they are not a housing first shelter

    • Does Haven For Hope also follow the member with the necessary services that sustain that member, once in housing? The big difference I can suss out is H4H provides services in its centralized location first, then has those services follow the housed member(s).

      Since you seem to be in opposition, is the H4H model, from what you can find, quote, understand, and present to us from elsewhere, successful? Is ‘housing-first’ much better consistently than the H4H model? Could “housing-first” be worse in some, or many circumstances, that the H4H model addresses much more efficiently?
      Thank you for the links, whoever you are. Maybe RivardReport can follow up with studies comparing the various homelessness-solving models.

      • Housing first has been a national best practice for a couple of decades because research shows that it works. great study in the American Journal of Public Health on Housing First – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448313/
        here is another article in Mother Jones: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/housing-first-solution-to-homelessness-utah/

        Here is an article on the guy that started Haven: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/09/robert-marbut_n_6738948.html
        Haven for Hope was not based on research and best practice, and the model has failed in many cities when tried to replicate – Transitioning from homelessness to housing with the requirement of adhering to programs has been shown to be successful for only two groups – youth and victims of Domestic Violence. Otherwise, the model of transitioning to permanent housing only after graduating or completing programs, a model used by Haven for Hope, is not as effective and costs more public dollars than simply putting people straight into permanent supportive housing with persons’ right to choose their participation in programs offered.

        The following quote on housing first is directly from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness – “Housing First is a proven method of ending all types of homelessness and is the most effective approach to ending chronic homelessness. Housing First offers individuals and families experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent affordable and/or supportive housing. Without clinical prerequisites like completion of a course of treatment or evidence of sobriety and with a low-threshold for entry, Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness, and significant reductions in the use of crisis service and institutions.”

  2. “Housing First” is actually well-known to be the leading and most successful model. VA follows it, for example. That said, it seems like Haven for Hope is a great program, with deserved national renown.

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