SAN ANTONIO – The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless has seen an increase in the need for resources and housing.
The organization launched a new pilot program designed to prevent people from experiencing life on the streets.
Katie Vela is the chief operating officer with The South Regional Alliance for the Homeless, or SARAH. She believes homelessness isn’t just a city issue, but it is also a community issue.
“It’s critical and it’s a matter of life and death,” said Vela.
The organization works with different agencies across the city and county as an effort to end homelessness. However, Vela said COVID-19 has made their mission more important.
“There was just an overall sense of worry across the community about what was next and what resources were available,” she said.
The need for help increased by 80 percent due to the pandemic. Vela said there was uncertainty with affordable housing, job loss, and shelters reducing capacity. The organization was forced to think quickly.
“We really wanted to have a strategy to address the needs of people seeking shelter if shelter wasn’t available,” said Vela.
SARAH recently launched its Homeless Diversion Pilot Program. The new approach will help people who may be experiencing homelessness for the first time.
A trained case manager will help identify a person’s specific needs. The USAA Foundation provided a $250,000 grant that will go toward flex funding, which helps households that require financial assistance.
“Whatever the situation might be, this funding is available,” said Vela.
According to the city of San Antonio’s website, there have been over 20,000 applications from people seeking residential assistance.
Vela said SARAH’s new program is not the overall solution but it is a start for more conversations.
“What do we want to prioritize as a community and have that alignment with city and county,” she said.