SAN ANTONIO -- On any given day there are more than one-thousand people living on San Antonio streets according to homeless advocates.
But there’s a relatively new program called the H.O.P.E. team that is making progress one person and one act of kindness at a time.
It is an outreach effort by the San Antonio Police Department.
Officer Monty McCann said, “H.O.P.E. stands for Homeless Outreach Positive Encounters.”
Plain clothes officers from the team have a completely different approach to dealing with people who are homeless.
Instead of focusing on enforcement, these officers come armed with information.
With regard to the new approach, McCann said “We've been doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You know, that's the definition of insanity so we decided it was time to do something different.”
They use an extensive list of community resources to connect the needy to the help that just might turn their lives around.
With a laser-like focus, they are addressing one person, one need at a time to gently coax the reluctant into a system they don't trust.
"That's exactly what we try to do. We're first responders," said McCann.
Bill Hubbard is the Executive Director of the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless.
“Each client requires a custom solution. One client might need shoes. One client might need medical attention. One client may need shelter. And those individuals are working with the H.O.P.E. team and the impact teams in the downtown district and they are in touch with service providers who can actually do that laser focus,” Hubbard said.
Officer Joe Farris said oftentimes the help they provide is very simple.
“We helped one man who said he needed a haircut. He told us he had a job lined up but couldn’t get it without a haircut so that's what we did and we haven't seen him since,” Farris said.
Hubbard says this effort, combined with the many providers offering services at the Haven for Hope campus are making steady progress.
“Our January 21st Point In Time count gave us a census of 2,781 homeless individuals living in San Antonio so bear in mind that's a snapshot for one night, but the fact is that was four percent lower than the previous count in January 2015. That's good news.” Hubbard said.
“Our objective is to end homelessness in this community. That means all the providers have to work together. That means public housing, the VA, and HUD have to provide funding, and they are so that we can put together a system that reduces homelessness to zero.” Hubbard said.
The H.O.P.E. team hit the streets in January so they have no hard data to prove their efforts are working but these veteran officers said they are hopeful.
Farris said, “I sometimes feel I've helped more people in the last nine months than in the rest of my entire career.”
(© 2016 KENS)