City proposes plan to use tourism revenue to combat homelessness in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio tourists are being asked to contribute $1 million to solving issues surrounding homelessness in the city.
A budget proposal that is being considered would raise the Go Rio barge tours and Tower of the Americas tickets by 50 cents.
The funds would be split: Haven for Hope would get $500,000 and $560,000 would be reserved to expand support for the homeless in a yet to be identified Homeless Community Strategic Plan.
The details of the plan are expected to be announced in March 2020.
Tourists and locals who enjoy the tours say the increase is not significant enough to keep tourists away.
Rachel King, a local resident, said if the funds go to help homeless veterans, she's behind the plan.
"I think a lot more of the community should help out the homeless," King said.
Aaron Cervantes, a tourist from Los Angeles, said he can understand why locals might not like the idea, but tourists are drawn to the River Walk experience.
"Fifty cents, to be honest, is not a lot of money, and it's an experience I can share with my kid and he'll remember it for years to come," he said.
The city spends more than $28.7 million on addressing issues in the homeless community.
Haven for Hope received $4.6 million from the city last year. The Department of Human Services spends about $11 million on outreach efforts. The San Antonio Police Department estimates $13.5 million is spent on outreach and calls. The San Antonio Fire Department spends about $3.9 million on calls to homeless. The Transportation and Capital Improvements department spends about $300,000 to clean up encampments.
During the last point in time homeless count in January, 2,872 people were found to be homeless in the city and Bexar County, a change from 2018 when there were 3,066 homeless people.
The four areas of focus in the count were veterans, 215 of which were counted. Volunteers also counted 343 chronic homeless people, 274 families and 98 unaccompanied youths.
The increase in ticket fees is part of the budget set to be voted on by City Council on Sept. 12. If approved, the changes go into effect Oct. 1.
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