SAN ANTONIO – As the city of San Antonio continues to grow, the homeless population is becoming even more apparent.
District 8 City Councilman Manny Pelaez joined Leading SA Sunday to discuss the city’s solution to homelessness and how the Northwest Side is adapting to growth and expansion.
“This is a problem being faced by every single city in the United States in a way that is more profound than we’ve ever seen before. The economic crisis, Covid, you know, drawdown of funds for mental health. This crisis is just a confluence of very, very sad winds that are all blowing and they’re blowing through San Antonio,” Councilman Pelaez said.
The councilman has been out and about working on the homeless issue he sees in his district. He said the city is working to find solutions to combatting homelessness.
“What we’ve done in a historic way is in 2020, we have funded more than ever homelessness, mental health programs, domestic violence programs, trauma-informed care programs. And we did it again in 2021. And we’re going to do it again in 2022. I mean, we’re talking almost a billion dollars. Never before has San Antonio invested in social safety net programs like this to make sure that the most vulnerable people around us don’t continue to fall under the, you know, between the cracks,” Pelaez said.
Councilman Pelaez said local leaders are attacking the problem very compassionately.
“We work with Goodwill, SAMMinistries, Haven for Hope, the Veterans Administration, etc., and we go out to these folks at their encampments. We don’t wait for them to come to Haven for Hope or come to the service centers. We go to them and we find them and we sit down with them and we treat them like the human beings that they are there,” Pelaez said.
He also discussed a hotel that’s used to get people off the streets and hopefully get them starting a new life.
Pelaez is hosting a virtual town hall on homelessness this coming Wednesday with that policy or not, we still have folks in 100 degree, 100 plus degree weather outside. It is very unsafe to be on the streets of San Antonio in this kind of heat,” Pelaez said. “You also get access to social services, wraparound services, mental health services, ID recovery services. And the idea here was to try to provide a safe place where all that can happen.”
Pelaez is hosting a virtual town hall on homelessness this coming Wednesday. You can learn more here.
In terms of the growth and expansion of the city and the Northwest Side, Pelaez has a goal to grow but maintain the natural beauties of the area.
“We got to protect those parcels of land which belong to the people, parks, in particular, linear trails. And so we’re making major investments in activating those. And our future bond package is going to include, I’m pretty sure, big investments in Eisenhower Park in the North Side and then connecting those parks to one another via bike and bike lanes about trails,” Pelaez said.
The mission is to grow in a specific manner, and hopefully build up.
“That sprawl is happening over the aquifer. And so, I think you’re going to see District 8 in the future start focusing on density. And that is, you know, apartments, towers, smaller homes, because I don’t see the demand for people wanting to live here waning anytime soon. But we need to figure out a way to do it in a way that doesn’t negatively impact our tree canopy,” Pelaez said.
You can watch the full Leading SA interview with Pelaez in the video player above.
KSAT Explains released an episode about the growing visibility of homeless encampments, and the struggle to compassionately handle them. You can watch that episode here or in the video player below: