Outreach workers brave bitter cold to help the homeless in San Antonio

Advocate says bed space available, more takers needed

SAN ANTONIO – Even as the snow fell and the temperatures dropped even lower, Valerie Salas was among a small army of outreach workers still out there trying to convince the homeless in San Antonio to seek shelter.

“The bed availability is definitely here,” Salas said.

But, Salas, the director of homeless services for Christian Assistance Ministry, said the problem is many of those they’re trying to reach don’t want to come out of the cold.

Those who are homeless have said some of them may have an aversion to shelter rules, for others it’s a matter of pride, while some have too many pets that they want to keep with them.

Still Salas, along with Gavin Rogers, executive director of Corazon Ministries, were among those who worked well into the night to bring in as many people as possible.

Rogers said of the 25 to 30 homeless people they spoke to, only about half agreed to come to Travis Park Church or other shelters.

“It’s amazing to me, all of us that work in this business, that some still want to stay out. It crushes us, but we do our best,” said Kenny Wilson, CEO of Haven for Hope, the city’s largest shelter.

Wilson said an emergency text went out to its nearly 300 staff members and volunteers willing to spend three days and three nights at Haven for Hope.

Salas said it has been a community-wide effort, in coordination with the city of San Antonio, involving churches, nonprofits and others.

For example, Salas said when road conditions early Monday morning made it impossible for her to pick up the meals that were prepared by Christian Assistance Ministry, San Antonio Police were able to drop them off at the Corazon Ministries Shelter at Travis Park Church.

Salas said because of the weather, many volunteers were unable to help.

“We’re kind of hitting a lot of walls,” she said. “Yet, everyone’s coming together to help.”

Even as more frigid weather bears down on San Antonio, Salas said probably like many others, she’s exhausted, but remains determined to do what needs to be done.

“We’ve just been kind of hitting over and over and over again, just trying to get them out of this weather,” Salas said.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.