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.