Man says homeless encampment inches from his Deco District home impacts his daily life

SAPD called to the property 19 times since March 2021

SAN ANTONIO – A longtime resident of San Antonio’s Deco District says the constant presence of a homeless encampment in the alley behind his home is negatively impacting his daily life.

“I can literally hear them talk about cocaine, weed and ‘how much you want?’ I can hear it right through my wall. And fights are happening. Loud, 911 call fights,” said Ruben Garcia, who lives in the 1600 block of W. Rosewood Avenue, near Fredericksburg Rd. and W. Hildebrand Ave.

San Antonio police records obtained by KSAT Investigates show officers have responded to the property 19 times since March 2021, for incidents including disturbances, thefts and shots fired.

Following a complaint made to the District 1 City Council offices in March, staff members visited the site.

Deco District resident Ruben Garcia stands in the alley behind his home. (KSAT)

San Antonio’s Department of Human Services also went to the location in an “outreach” effort, District 1 Communications Director Karsen Maldonado said via email.

However, when KSAT visited the property weeks later the encampment was still there.

“They offered them a place to stay and they refused. And they just said ‘okay’ and left, leaving them there,” said Garcia.

He said a large wall bordering the north side of the alley should be knocked down and suggested paving the one-block-long strip of land.

“It will take away their hiding space. They won’t have that anymore,” said Garcia.

“A human tragedy”

But officials say the issue is more complicated than simply pushing a person experiencing homelessness away from where he or she is currently staying.

A town hall hosted by District 8 City Councilman Manny Pelaez earlier this spring revealed that homelessness is a complex circumstance now extending well beyond downtown San Antonio and the surrounding neighborhoods.

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez addresses a large crowd gathered at a town hall on homelessness earlier this year. (KSAT)

“That is a human tragedy. At the same time, I have neighborhoods who are increasingly anxious because they are seeing more and more and more homelessness,” Pelaez told KSAT, moments before starting an event that took place in front of a packed room of residents.

“We’ve got a crisis on our hands that needs to be spoken about in the most honest, raw terms,” said Pelaez.

A large pile of clothes outside a tunnel at Interstate 10 near De Zavala Road. (KSAT)

He said post-COVID inflation is pricing people out of the market for housing and that officials have seen more homeless families, as the profile of San Antonians experiencing homelessness continues to change.

Pelaez stopped short of saying there is a direct line between rising levels of homelessness and rising levels of crime, claiming a more accurate description would be to call it a “nexus.”

The city of San Antonio offers an alternative donation method for residents who want to “compassionately give to organizations serving people experiencing homelessness in lieu of donating to people directly on the streets.”

Residents can text SAGIVES to 41444.

Collected funds go toward a list of services including family reunification efforts, transportation to shelters and appointments, mental health and medical services and assistance with housing application fees.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.