San Antonio surpasses goal to get hundreds of homeless people off streets

City has housed 1,642 individuals since taking part in House America initiative last October

San Antonio became the first community in the U.S. to surpass a nationwide effort to help end homelessness, city officials announced Monday.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio became the first community in the U.S. to surpass a nationwide effort to help end homelessness, city officials announced Monday.

“Congratulations for being the first House America community to not only meet but to exceed your rehousing goal,” Marcia Fudge, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, told city officials.

Last October, the Biden administration started the House America initiative. San Antonio was one of the communities to take the pledge and set a goal of housing 1,500 individuals by the end of the year.

City officials worked with local organizations to find housing for 1,642 individuals.

“Millions of families are one paycheck away, one event, from financial catastrophe. That was on clear display during the pandemic, which is why we’ve adopted a comprehensive approach here,” said Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio mayor.

Nirenberg said the community collectively leveraged resources from the American Rescue Plan Act, including emergency housing vouchers.

“ARPA dollars and local recovery funds to boost rapid rehousing, expand case management and support homeless prevention services, including rental and relocation assistance programs,” Nirenberg said. “We’re also close to our goal of adding 860 deeply affordable units to the development pipeline by the end of the year. By Spring, we’ll hit and exceed that mark.”

The initiative uses a housing-first approach that shelters people and then addresses underlying problems that could lead to homelessness, like mental illness, abuse and domestic violence.

“As we engaged with more people, we also enhanced low barrier temporary shelter options and focused on options available for permanent housing,” said Melody Woosley, director of Human Services for the City of San Antonio.

Nikisha Baker, president and CEO of SAMMinistries, said a third of San Antonio households are considered to be working poor, and 18% are living at or below the poverty level.

“A common myth is that these individuals choose to live this way. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Baker said.

One of SAMMinistries clients, Leslie Gonzales, said she was homeless for years but now has a roof over her head thanks to the initiative.

“Finally, it felt like someone loved me and cared about me,” said Gonzales. “I was so thankful to get a housing voucher, and today I’m stronger.”

Kim Jefferies, CEO at Haven for Hope, said Monday was a day to celebrate the work that has been put in, but there is still a long way to go.

“We’re not putting a Band-Aid on a solution. We’re coming together, wrapping around individuals to make sure that they have the support they need to not just get housed, but to stay housed,” Jefferies said.


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About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.