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City of San Antonio aims to turn east-side motel into permanent supportive housing

The urgent need for additional permanent supportive housing comes during a time where chronic homelessness has increased 77% since 2020.

SAN ANTONIO — An east-side motel may become the new site for the City of San Antonio and community partners to provide permanent supportive housing as part of the ongoing collective effort to help those experiencing homelessness.

The City of San Antonio aims to convert the more than 80-bed Garden Inn and Suites at W.W. White Road into a facility where homeless people can receive variety of on-site services including mental health and employment assistance.

Residents, depending on their income levels, would pay a certain percentage for rent as well. 

“Given that we’ve recently seen an uptick in chronic homeless, which means that folks are homeless for more than a year and have also identified to have some sort of disability, that there is a need for more specialized housing,” said Morjoriee White, who serves as the city’s DHS homeless administrator.  

“It’s going to provide permanent supportive housing for people with health conditions, mental health that need ongoing treatment and support,” said Katie Vela, executive director of the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH).

On May 7, a majority of San Antonio voters approved six propositions for the city’s 2022-2027 bond program, which encompasses $1.2 billion of funds. One of the propositions secured $150 million for affordable housing projects.

White said the Garden Inn project would be financially supported through a combination of bond and federal funds if ultimately approved by the San Antonio City Council.

She stressed the project aligns with the city’s Strategic Housing Implementation Plan. 

“When we don’t have enough affordable housing stock or PSH, it becomes a challenge to move people forward,” White said.

SARAH’s Homeless Point-In-Time study indicates chronic homelessness increased by 77% since 2020. Unsheltered chronic homelessness jumped by only 4.5%, an indicator that the most vulnerable people were being moved to safer environments.

The overall count of people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio-Bexar County increased by 2% from 2020. Compared to population growth, the percentage of the population living on the streets has remained flat at 0.14%.

SARAH’s Vela noted the Garden Inn initiative would also create opportunities to test out pilot projects that aim to enhance the level of care for San Antonio’s houseless population.

“There will be hospice beds available for people on the street that need hospice or medical care and also rehab beds for people moving out of detox programs which we’ve also seen there is a gap in our system,” Vela said.

Maria Delagarza isn’t pleased with the prospect of the Garden Inn turning into a haven for homeless people.

“I think this place is probably going to bring a negative influence on the businesses that are there,” Delagarza said, who’s head of the Hein Orchard neighborhood group.

Delagarza supports aiding the homeless, but she believes money would be better spent going toward the Housing First Community Coalition’s upcoming Towne Twin Village, which aims to create permanent supportive housing as well.

James Bryant, who works next door to the Garden Inn, has no problem with the pending program if it means ensuring those less fortunate are getting their lives back on track.

“Personally, I can’t give them a place to stay but I try to feed them, give them a place to stay because I always look at it, what if that was me in that same position,” Bryant said. “I’m in support of anything that will help the homeless to have somewhere that they can be not on the streets.”

The next community meeting on the Garden Inn homeless housing project is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Claude Black Multi Service Center on June 29.

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