San Antonio on track for more than 1,000 homeless camp cleanups this year

The city promised 700 homeless camp cleanups in fiscal year 2024, but includes TxDOT cleanups in its statistics

SAN ANTONIO – From storm drains to neighborhoods to parks, San Antonio is on track to have hundreds more homeless camp cleanups than last year, fulfilling a promise city leaders made this fall.

However, it’s not clear how much of that is specifically the City of San Antonio’s doing.

A city dashboard shows there have been 520 cleanups in just the first six months of the 2024 fiscal year, which stretches from October 2023 through March 2024. The city’s director of human services estimates that could reach “probably 1,000 - 1,100″ by the end of the year.

The 2023 fiscal year ended in September 2023 with 680 cleanups across San Antonio, the dashboard said.

After a slow start, the city said the average turnaround for a camp cleanup is now just shy of two weeks after a complaint is received.

Homeless outreach and encampments were the top priority for San Antonians in a budget survey, and city officials committed to performing 700 homeless camp cleanups in what officials called “abatements” during the 2024 fiscal year. They also promised to respond to complaints about encampments within two weeks.

At the time, city staff estimated they would end the 2023 fiscal year with more than 500 cleanups.

However, the method the city uses to tally the cleanups can make it difficult to determine how it’s truly stacking up against its original goals.

The 2024 fiscal year budget includes $206,000 to hire additional homeless outreach workers and $532,000 for the Solid Waste Management Department to clean up 700 encampments. Conversations during the budget process appeared to indicate that this was a city-specific goal.

However, the city dashboard includes both city-led cleanups and ones by the Texas Department of Transportation.

City of San Antonio human services director Melody Woosley said its outreach teams support TxDOT cleanups, so those are included in the city’s total tally.

While KSAT did not find any previous mention of TxDOT being included in the city’s overall cleanup goals, Woosley said they had been.

The city has also lagged behind its goal of tackling camps within two weeks. The city’s dashboard shows that the average turnaround time reached as high as 62 days in November.

Woosley said the city was still hiring staff early on and also had to begin performing the cleanups five days a week, instead of three.

The average turnaround time in March was down to 13.8 days, though more than one-third of the cleanups took longer than two weeks.


The strategy of the homeless camp cleanups, which are sometimes called “sweeps,” is also controversial.

People camping at the sites can end up with their belongings tossed in the trash if they aren’t around when cleanup crews arrive. One former city outreach worker went so far as to call it “death by displacement.”

City officials acknowledged the cleanups do little beyond pushing homeless people from one area to another, sometimes temporarily. The city has a list of 33 sites where it does cleanups every other week.

As a counterpart to the camp cleanup strategy, the city also promised to get 400 people living on the street into some kind of shelter.

Woosley told council members in a presentation Thursday that the goal had already been met. So far, 934 people experiencing “unsheltered” homelessness have been moved into a shelter or other housing.

She also said outreach services and shelter opportunities are offered at each camp cleanup.

KSAT visited a site in the Five Points neighborhood on Thursday which was scheduled for a Friday cleanup. There was a sign from the city sign warning that the cleanup was coming.

There were numerous pieces of trash, but no one was camped there.

District 7 Councilwoman Marina Alderete Gavito has asked the city to prioritize cleanups near “sensitive” areas like parks, drainage areas and schools.

It’s important to treat our unhoused neighbors with respect, dignity, and compassion,” she said during Thursday’s meeting “At the same time, I worry that if we don’t address these encampments in sensitive areas and find permanent solutions, the compassion from the community will begin to erode.”

According to the city’s presentation, sites are “based on level of concern and proximity to residential neighborhoods, schools, and businesses.”

The city also allows camps to be removed without notice if fires or felony-level crimes are reported there.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

Recommended Videos