City pushes for hundreds more homeless camp cleanups as new budget takes effect

With the start of October, the city is looking to clean up encampments of unhoused people within 2 weeks of getting a call.

SAN ANTONIO – Pete Barrera, the outreach manager at Haven For Hope, said a large part of his job over the past couple of months has been spreading the message of city cleanups of encampment sites for unhoused people.

“They’ve been increasing for a while,” Barrera said. “Right now, a lot of these are recurring sites and they’re mostly the same people. It’s our job to continue to visit with them.”

Homeless outreach and encampment cleanups are two of the top priorities for the city.

With the new budget that takes effect on Oct. 1, the city has set a goal of getting 400 people off the street.

The budget includes $200,000 for rental and utility assistance. It also allocates funds for an additional 200 encampment cleanups for fiscal year 2024.

“We had a big improvement from the year before, and we’re going to continue improving on that,” Andrew Gutierrez, director of the Solid Waste Management Department, said.

Gutierrez said his crews are on track to clean up more than 500 encampments this year, and the city’s goal is 700 next year.

“We’re going to focus on trying to clean up some more of the homeless encampments and more illegal dumping,” Gutierrez said. “We’re doing it in drainage ditches, wooded areas, you name it to wherever there’s a homeless encampment, our crews go in there and clean it up.”

Gutierrez said his crews often clean up tents, mattresses and any trash left behind.

How big a site is determines how long the cleanup takes. Gutierrez said the city does outreach and an assessment at least 48 hours before an abatement.

“We can always use more people, but, you know, we’re, we’re guided by city council and city manager and they set our expectations,” Gutierrez said.

One of those expectations, per City Manager Erik Walsh, is to clean up an encampment site within two weeks of getting an initial call.

During a ride along with Barrera and the outreach team at Haven For Hope, KSAT 12 tried to talk with people impacted during these cleanups. No one wanted to go on camera, but one man confirmed that in the site he’s been staying at over the past couple of months, he’s had to clear out before.

“Since I’ve been here two times,” he said. “They’re doing their job.”

Barrera said he’s going to continue making an effort to get the message out about clean-ups, hoping to help even if people he meets with aren’t yet ready to go to Haven For Hope.

“You meet them where they’re at, no matter where they’re at,” Barrera said.

About the Authors:

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.