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Spike in indigent population forcing city officials, residents to find solution

Community members worry homelessness uptick could lead to more crime

SAN ANTONIO – A spike in the homeless population is forcing city officials, residents and the San Antonio Police Department to come together to find a solution.

Community members said they’re fearful that the increase in homelessness will be followed by crime and illegal activity.

Tinker Shultz was born in the Prospect Hill neighborhood. She said the homeless are migrating from Haven for Hope to neighborhood street corners, businesses and alleys.

“We see them wandering everywhere,” Shultz said. “There’s been an uptick in graffiti and drugs.”

The unusual spike in numbers has many residents and city officials trying to figure out why.

“There’s a variety of theories as to why this may be happening, and some of it has to do with some of the improvements we've seen in the area,” said Shirley Gonzales, District 5 city councilwoman. “We've seen some of our vacant structures rehabilitated, which means people that used to hang out in old buildings or hang out in vacant properties are no longer doing that. Now they’re just hanging out in the street.”

With the increase comes drug abuse, prostitution, thefts and burglaries. Police are aware of the issues but they said they won’t arrest the problem away.

“The three SAFFE officers that are dedicated to that area have more than 20 years’ experience working the neighborhood. They’re familiar with the problems," Gonzales said.

Jason Mata, who is part of his neighborhood’s association, agrees with finding alternative solutions.

“We don't want them to go to jail. We want them to go to a place where they can get services. We don't want to lock up people and have people rot away,” Mata said.

There isn’t an overnight solution, but Gonzales said she will continue to monitor the issue. She said she hopes the less fortunate take advantages of the resources that are put in place to help them.