SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio dismantled another downtown homeless camp Friday at Main Street and I-35, just two days after they cleared out a camp at Brooklyn Avenue and I-37.
While the Wednesday cleanup was triggered primarily by concerns over criminal activity, Department of Human Services Assistant Director Patrick Steck said the Main Street camp was being “abated” - in the city’s terminology - mostly because of safety concerns. Tents were just feet away from a 12-foot drop onto the I-35 freeway.
“We’ll leave a camp in place if there’s no health or safety concern. If there’s no suspected criminal activity, we would not abate it. But in this instance, it is definitely a safety consideration,” Steck said.
Outreach crews from the city and its partners had been by the camp several times in the previous weeks, Steck said, offering assistance connecting with various services. They also gave residents of the camp a heads up that an abatement was coming.
When Friday morning came, though, the focus was on offering people at the camp the chance to go to shelters or detox. Most grabbed what they could and left before a cleanup crew discarded tents and trash alike into a dump trailer.
“It’s the second time that I done been in this situation. Only thing they going to do - once again - is scatter us like ants,” said Tomanique Grant, a resident of the camp who has spoken with KSAT before.
Steck said out of everyone in the camp, three people accepted help with getting shelter services. Beyond DHS staff, there were also outreach teams from Centro and SAMMinistries at the scene.
One of the three who accepted help said SAMMinistries President and CEO Nikisha Baker, is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was going to their office.
“We’re going to connect her with shelter for the next 48 hours while we get her on a pathway to housing,” Baker said, adding that one man had agreed to go to a shelter, and another to detox.
“The long term goal is right to get these folks connected with permanent housing and so this is a step in the right direction.”
However, the abatement tactic has drawn criticism and new attention in the wake of Wednesday’s cleanup.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino spent Thursday night at his Dellview field office, where he believed another abatement was imminent.
City Manager Erik Walsh said Friday that he had agreed to let people sleep at the field office for “2-3 weeks” while city and District 1 council staff along with their partners try to connect people to services.
“The problem is that we will come in and sweep an area, but then nobody knows where these people will go next. And that’s not the right approach,” Trevino told KSAT Friday morning.