Rising housing costs out of reach for people transitioning from homelessness

Local agencies struggling to help as rent costs soar, CARES Act funding dwindles

Sky-high housing costs affect us all, but they’re hitting people experiencing homelessness especially hard.

SAN ANTONIO - – Sky-high housing costs affect us all, but they’re hitting people experiencing homelessness especially hard.

SAMMinistries helped Anthony Wolfe move into a shelter downtown that used to be a hotel and was converted about a year ago.

“I actually lived on the streets, under bridges, trying to sleep in parks because the grass is softer than concrete. I always tried to work, so I did not want to be like a homeless person asking people for stuff,” Wolfe said.

He’s lived at the shelter since September 2021 and has been working to form a housing plan since day one.

“I work at the AT&T Center overnight and sometimes during the days to get extra hours,” Wolfe said. “As I work, I search for apartments on my own. Even though SAMMinistries is helping with the apartment process, it’s just crazy because apartments want you to make three times the rent.”

Katie Vela, executive director of the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless, or SARAH, said that’s harder for people making lower wages, as unexpected rent hikes could set them back.

“We have people that have moved out of homelessness making $12 an hour. But if their rent goes up by $100 or $200 a month, they no longer can pay their bills,” Vela said.

“We were able to house over 1,500 people last year because of all the resources we had through the CARES Act and the COVID response. But now a lot of those resources are starting to wind down,” Vela added.

SARAH maintains a resource eligibility list of people interested in housing and experiencing homelessness who need resources.

Vela said that list is currently over 2,000 people. That’s why she said funding for new developments is crucial.

Vela offered KSAT a sneak peek of Towne Twin Village, a community being built to house adults over 50 moving out of homelessness.

Crews are in the middle of building tiny homes set in circles, facing each other, to establish a sense of community. As requested by future residents, they will also have new RVs put on the land.

“They’ve gotten so much input from people who are on the street about their needs and use all of that in the design. It’s also all ADA accessible, beautifully designed units really thoughtfully put together,” Vela said.

They will also have a big community center, a VIA bus stop that serves meals, an amphitheater, a movie theater, and other spaces for activities.

It will be open to others who can visit the community for resources.

The project’s first phase is already fully funded at over $12.2 million, comprised of money from private donors, the city and the county.

The organizations involved are still fundraising for phases 2 and 3.

“At the end of both phases, it’ll be around 200 people that live here,” Vela said.

Though Wolfe won’t qualify for Town Twin Village because of his age, he is keeping the faith that the community will continue prioritizing similar projects and resources.

“I have to. That’s all I have,” he said.

While housing and rent prices stay high, Wolfe feels lucky to have the shelter.

“I actually like being here. From time to time I get kind of down about my situation, because I’ve tried -- they’ve tried to get me out of this program and out on my own, and it hasn’t really worked at all because of housing prices,” Wolfe said.

While he’s hoping for some economic stability, he said he’s ready to keep trying.


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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.