Downtown hotel turned homeless shelter gets first residents

First 10 of 45 rooms filled with clients of existing SAMMinistries program; new clients could arrive next week

SAN ANTONIO – A downtown San Antonio hotel-turned-homeless-shelter has already started filling vacancies, though it’s not fully open yet.

The San Antonio City Council voted on June 17 to lease the Days Inn on East Houston Street, near I-37, for SAMMinistries to operate as a low-barrier emergency shelter. SAMMinistries took control of the property on July 6 after the holiday weekend and has since filled 10 of the 45 rooms with members of a similar pilot program it ran at another downtown hotel.

President and CEO Nikisha Baker expects to begin filling the remaining 35 rooms with new referrals from other agencies as soon as next week.

Each client or couple will have their own room in the facility, and Baker says they hope to bring in five to seven new clients per week.

“We want to phase in those referrals, right. We don’t want to have 35 new clients to come in on Monday because we are still working to get staff,” Baker said.

The new shelter is meant to help people who Baker says would have a more challenging time accessing or navigating traditional homeless shelters. That includes people with drug addictions who haven’t gotten sober yet, people who have emotional or behavioral health issues, and even registered sex offenders.

Baker says her organization plans to offer services on-site, such as three meals a day, medical care, peer support groups, substance abuse counseling, and ID recovery services.

“The goal is that we’re able to convert 40% of the folks who are here within 90 days to a permanent housing solution, whether that’s a housing voucher, whether that’s a permanent supportive housing program, whether it’s veteran benefits, whether it’s the next level of care if they need intensive substance abuse treatment,” Baker said. “So the goal is to take the clients from the street and convert them to that next level of housing or care so that they can become successful.”

Kelsey Trevino is one of the first residents of the shelter, having been in the existing pilot program for about a month. Trevino says she has struggled with substance abuse and was previously kicked out of Haven for Hope and a hotel it had been operating during the pandemic.

Before SAMMinistries offered her a spot, she stayed near the District 1 field office at Vance Jackson Road and La Manda Boulevard in the Dellview neighborhood. But Trevino wanted to get her life back on track and get back her daughter, whom she says was taken into Child Protective Services’ custody.

So far, she says SAMMinistries has been helpful.

“They’re trying to get me housing right now. And then they got me shelter. Nobody wanted to just help me like that. They’re like, ‘No, because you’re on drugs,’” Trevino said, noting the difference with the SAMMinistries program. “And they actually, like, told me, ‘It doesn’t matter what you’re on.’ But I put it down because I’m not going to get kicked out. I know that’s the rules. Like, It’s hard.”

New District 1 Councilman Mario Bravo hopes the hotel could help take in some of the other people who have been camping in the Dellview area. He told KSAT his office has been reaching out to nonprofits who deal with homelessness to make sure they’ve been doing outreach in the neighborhood to ensure they’re on a list for housing solutions like the hotel.

“I don’t think there’s any one solution that’s going to fix everything, but it’s going to help alleviate the situation,” Bravo said. “And we’re just going to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that we can continue to offer these, you know, these services to get people off the streets.”

Baker says SAMMinistries will use a prioritization tool to determine who will get a spot at the shelter, and that it’s not meant to be a fix for any one part of the city.

“And so we do absolutely want to target that space,” she said of the Dellview neighborhood. “But you can look right under the bridge - right hereunder I-37, and there’s large encampments that are in that space as well. And so it’s not specific to District 1 or any of the city council districts. It’s a resource for the entire city.”

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.