SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council will vote Thursday on a contract with a consulting firm based in San Francisco that will be hired to create a Comprehensive Homeless Strategic Plan.
The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless reported that in 2018, there were 3,066 homeless people in San Antonio and Bexar County. This year, the number went down to 2,872.
The California company called Homebase could soon be hired to come up with a solution to the homeless population issue.
An assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio who studies urban planning said the homeless plan should focus on transportation and housing.
“We have particular issues with people on the verge of homelessness — that perhaps through measures of zoning and development we can prevent from happening in the first place — but also, so that we have an inclusive community ... we ... (should seek) opportunities for people to be able to have safe and affordable homes throughout the community instead of just concentrating all of, you know, low-income housing in one area of the city or another,” said Greg Griffin, assistant professor of the Urban and Regional Planning Program at UTSA.
Griffin said there are some disadvantages to hiring an outside company.
“A clear potential disadvantage is losing track of local knowledge, (which) is very important. So we need to figure out ways where we have those strong connections with local networks that know what the homeless community in San Antonio is dealing with and also the larger communities that they impact, as well,” Griffin said.
He believes there could be positives with going to a consultant that has dealt with its own challenges.
“Certainly in the case of San Francisco, (there are) more housing shortage and affordability challenges than San Antonio has. So altogether, I think San Antonio is well-positioned to take the opportunity to learn from what we're seeing right now and get some really great ideas to improve strategic planning in the city for the future, as well,” Griffin said.
If approved, the city would pay nearly $129,000.
At least one City Council member is not sold on the proposition. Earlier this month, District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry had his concerns because the company is from California. Currently, he still feels the same, according to the following statement:
“Combating homelessness in San Antonio is something that is really important to me, the neighbors of District 10 and San Antonio as a whole. We have a lot of faith in the efforts of the Department of Human Services and SAPD. They are working to not only find encampments, but also to make connections with homeless individuals and connect them with the appropriate care. They are closer to this issue than any outside firm could be. I believe in the work that DHS and SAPD are doing, and I have faith that we have the tools to develop a strategic plan in-house.”
Melody Woosley, director of the Department of Human Services released the following statement:
“The City’s Department of Human Services is working to address homelessness in our community through a strategic, comprehensive approach. To that effect, staff is recommending contracting with nationally recognized Common Concerns/HomeBase to provide an assessment of San Antonio’s current homeless response system and to develop a 5-10-year homeless strategic plan.”