City leaders address economic segregation in San Antonio; some residents think it may be too late

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio is being called one of the most economically segregated cities in the country, and some residents believe it may be too late to address the issue.

Earlier this week, a two-year study revealed that four ZIP codes — 78202 and 78208 on the East Side, 78207 on the West Side and 78211 on the Southwest Side — are were San Antonio's worst poverty is concentrated.

The study was done by the San Antonio Area Asset Funders Network with financial backing from the San Antonio Area Foundation and JPMorgan Chase.

The study showed that residents in the impoverished areas have below-average outcomes in employment, health insurance coverage, income and education.

The study says financial challenges that residents experience in these areas don't allow them to build assets for future generations, such as not having savings, the ability to go to college, own a home or have reliable transportation.

Margarita, 56, lives in low-income housing on the West Side. She lost her job a year ago after she got sick and couldn't go back to work.

She is now selling her belongings to try to pay her rent and support her 18-year-old son, who she hopes can get out of the cycle of poverty that her family has been in for generations.

“This is what I collected today, probably like $20 in there,” said Margarita, while showing her piggy bank.

Margarita lives in one of the ZIP codes where a severe poverty gap exists.

“It’s never going to end. We all go down for something. Planning on him to go to college, get a better life then me,” she said, referring to her son.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said city leaders have read the study and understand its importance.

“There's far too many parts of the city that have been historically left behind in their infrastructure but also in the quality of life of many residents,” Sandoval said. “I always say that part of our job is making sure that we bring everyone with us to this better San Antonio we are creating.”

She said the city has already put in place two financial coaching centers within the past 10 years and said more could help.

“It's possible to consider opening more of those,” Sandoval said. “We're in the middle of budget season right now, so in a few days we'll see the draft budget and see what is in there to help families in San Antonio.”

District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, who represents the East Side, sent KSAT the following statement:

“San Antonio is consistently the most economically segregated city in the US. As you walk from one block to the next or look across the street from one side to the other, you can see this segregation. We can not deny it as a City, and we must truly acknowledge it and combat it.

"When we’re working to create a unified city, we have to address the fact that, yes we’re diverse, but there is such a huge class divide. Many of the programs we have treat the symptoms, but it’s crucial that we work together at the county, city, and state level to start targeting the root causes. Students in our Title I schools aren’t ready for college, renters are not being protected and evictions are on the rise, workers cannot leave work when they are sick without fear of losing a paycheck or their job, the lack of affordable housing, irresponsible development, and much more.

"We have real work to do right now, and we have a very small window to start implementing policies that are going to lead to the systemic change we need in our city. My District is depending on it and so is the rest of the City.”

District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha-Garcia, who represents the Southwest Side, sent KSAT the following statement:

“The study released by the San Antonio Area Asset Funders Network highlights a growing concern about segregated poverty and generational poverty that we know affects many underrepresented communities throughout our City.  One of the zip codes identified, 78211, is partially in the district I represent so it most definitely deserves immediate attention and critical investments.  The City and many non-profit organizations provide job training services and early childhood programs, but there is still an overwhelming need for targeted and integrated social services for our most vulnerable populations.  Individuals who do not have stable housing, access to healthcare services, and have limited employment and educational opportunities face an uphill battle to make ends meet, and this is clearly unacceptable. Analyzing the types of community outreach efforts and the dissemination of information of services available through our local non-profits is definitely a step towards collaborative partnerships benefiting our community members.”

West side resident Richard Martinez says city resources were needed a long time ago to prevent the poverty cycle from continuing.

“It's too late,” Martinez said. “When you try to help them — that help should’ve been given to them when it was being presented, not when they are in shambles and can't get out.”

About the Authors: