SAN ANTONIO – It’s still not clear yet how the pandemic is affecting the city’s homeless population, but the organization charged with taking care of downtown says their presence downtown has stayed relatively steady, though more visible.
Since late March, Centro San Antonio’s Homeless Outreach Team has been performing regular point-in-time counts in the 0.83 square mile Public Improvement District it covers. The monthly averages for the daily counts of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness have fluctuated between 93 and 112.
“There’s been a lot of concerns and perceptions that that homelessness is increasing within downtown when, in fact, our numbers are showing us that it’s pretty steady and it’s level. There haven’t been any significant increases or decreases in homelessness since March within the downtown space,” said PID Operations Director Jacqueline Lucio.
Members of the team, though, say the presence of people experiencing homelessness is more conspicuous simply because there are fewer other people around because of the pandemic.
The city’s homeless administrator, Morjoriee White, said homelessness has become more visible on a citywide scale because of the pandemic because of reduced services at places like shelters and transitional programs, as well as less emphasis on cleaning up homeless encampments.
Coordinated encampment outreaches were suspended between March and July, White said, which allowed some build-up. Even now, because of the pandemic, fewer camps are cleaned up.
“Right now, our priorities include encampments where there is criminal activity, as well as those where there’s a high risk of health and safety concerns,” White said.
Whether the visibility will be backed up by increased numbers isn’t yet known. The 2020 countywide point in time count was held back in January before the pandemic hit. Until the 2021 count on Jan. 26, it will be hard to say how much the overall homeless population has changed.