City Council receives update on homeless population

Number of homeless people decreased in SA

SAN ANTONIO – It's been about a year since the San Antonio City Council was presented with a plan to address the homeless population.

On Wednesday, the City Council got an update. The city of San Antonio's Department of Human Services said the number of homeless people has gone down.

"In January 2016, we had a total of about 2,700 homeless in the community, sheltered and unsheltered," said Melody Woosley, director of the city's Human Services Department. "And that reflected a 4 percent decrease from 2015, the year before.”

Since December of last year, the city has pushed for a community-outreach approach to persuade homeless people to get services or treatment.

There has also been crisis intervention training to help with responding to people who are mentally unstable or influenced by drugs.

"If someone is breaking the law and it's a serious breach of the peace, then we'll arrest them," San Antonio police Chief William McManus said. "If not, we'll tell them to move on and the ones who want to take advantage of the services, we'll provide them transportation with their property and pets if they have any."

McManus said police are also working with local lawmakers to get legal identification for those who are homeless, so they can have more access to apply for services.

"Many homeless people do not have IDs and therefore, they're stopped before they even get out of the gate," McManus said. "So we have our "Hope Team" that assists them in getting identification."

Chief McManus said while the outreach this past year has helped, there's still work to be done.

"We're putting a lot of effort (in)to ... legislative changes and seeking resources that can help us provide more treatment and options for people who have addiction and mental-health illnesses that prevent them from moving forward with their lives," Woosley said.

In another effort to alleviate the homeless problem, the San Antonio Police Department has been cracking down on trespassing, not just panhandling. The number of trespassing arrests has increased from 2015 to 2016. In downtown, the number of arrests increased from 239 to 277 and citywide, the number increased from 1,545 to 1,879.

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