SAN ANTONIO – Victor Mesquiti with Alamo Collision Center LLC says he noticed a crowd of homeless people begin to gather across the street from his business under Loop 410 and Jackson Keller Road about three years ago.
However, in the last year, he said the crowd has grown.
“We never used to see that many of them hoarding so many so many things and, you know, becoming a big campsite,” Mesquiti said.
According to Mesquiti, the group under the Loop has transformed the area, leaving bodily fluids and trash around his building.
One person even vandalized the property, Mesquiti said, but he wants the city to deal with the population, curtail future crimes and get them help.
A few blocks away from the encampment is SAMMinistries. Nikisha Baker, CEO of SAMMinistries, says a collaborative effort between nonprofits and the city to form a strategic plan to help the less fortunate is on going.
According to Baker, tent cities are more visible lately, but homelessness in the area has always been a problem.
“The full economic impact of the pandemic is still yet unknown,” Baker said.
According to Baker, the need for assistance has increased in the area dramatically in the last year.
During their 2019-2020 fiscal year, the group had 1,100 people reach out to them for services. That number for 2020-2021 is up 700 more cases and the fiscal year is not over yet.
“There are more individuals, more families that we are being made aware of as a service provider than we have experienced in the past,” Baker said.
Evictions and moratoriums also impacted many families, some who thought they were never going to have to pay the rent and then found themselves overwhelmed with their situation.
Morgan Handley, the associate director for street outreach at Corazon Ministries, says there’s a great effort underway to reach those living in the tents, but it takes time to gain their trust.
“Many of them aren’t ready to address their substance abuse yet,” Handley said. “And so it’s kind of just a waiting game. And so for many of them, they weren’t open to any of the services we were offering.”
In February, the city conducted a massive abatement of tent city under I-37 and McCollough, many agencies were there to help, but she says only a few of the nearly 100 people took up the help offered.
“I come into this work every day knowing that not everybody’s going to be wanting help and their help doesn’t look like necessarily what I have in mind,” Handley said.
Anyone who wants to help the homeless is urged to donate to organizations directly.