NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — A coalition of non-profits organizations in New Braunfels strives to tackle the issue of homelessness while working alongside the community to come up with solutions.
Unlike San Antonio or Austin, homelessness in New Braunfels and Comal County isn’t as visible.
Kellie Stallings, CE administrator with NB Housing Partners, stressed there’s an ever-growing need for resources to accommodate the homeless or those on the brink of living on the streets.
“What we have seen over the last decade is that the number of people who experienced homelessness more than once and for longer than six months is growing,” Stallings said.
She attributes the lack of affordable housing combined with rapid community growth as just a couple of the reasons New Braunfels is experiencing a rise in homelessness.
Stallings noted the average rental cost in New Braunfels is $1,400 per month and there’s a lack of rental units under $850 per month.
The New Braunfels Housing Authority is coping with at least a 5-year waiting list for subsidized housing.
Stallings also pointed to challenges created for people without vehicles or other modes of transportation to get to work due to New Braunfels’ absence of public transportation.
NB Housing Partners’ First Footing program has helped 242 people secure housing, health care services and employment assistance since launching in February 2021.
The hotel-based crisis housing program coordinates with a variety of community partners to provide employment and housing to people in need.
NB Housing Partners is on the search for property to be used as the site for a permanent shelter that’s less expensive and more sustainable long-term.
“We have even made an offer on a site that would be long-term, turn into transitional housing and permanent supportive housing so it would be more like apartment settings,” Stallings said.
Jefferson Whitehead, a New Braunfels native, has expressed opposition to a homeless shelter existing at certain proposed sites in town such as the Comal County Senior Citizens Center.
Whitehead is a father and husband who’s attended city council meetings to voice his opinions on NB Housing Partners’ efforts to secure a permanent shelter location.
“This to me is something to where citizens should have a say,” Whitehead said.
Among Whitehead’s top concerns deals with the outcomes of a shelter and the potential safety issues it could pose in the future. He doesn’t want New Braunfels to become like Austin or San Antonio as far as the climate of homelessness.
He’s advocating for the New Braunfels City Council to pass ordinances restrict homeless shelters to specific locations. Whitehead emphasized he’s all for helping the homeless, but without disturbing the safety and peace of the community at-large.
“With having them that close vicinity to schools or even a park like Landa Park and to me that’s not okay,” Whitehead said.
NB Housing Partners has not yet signed a contract for a permanent shelter location. Stallings said having a up and running facility within the year is ideal as the need is urgent.
“We need to have a site that we can count on and a site that provides dignity and care and safety and security not only for those that we’re serving but for the community as well,” Stallings said.
The Salvation Army of New Braunfels is also seeking to upgrade its headquarters by relocating to a much bigger facility since there’s increasing demand for help; everything from health care aid, clothing to food services.
“Our mission is to preach the gospel while meeting human needs,” said Major Roman Leal.
Leal’s worked for the Salvation Army in the Dallas area and Houston where homelessness is incomparable to a smaller community like New Braunfels.
He’s confident in the group of non-profits to get ahead of homelessness before it spirals out of control. But like Stallings, Leal sees the lack of affordable housing units as a barrier to helping those less fortunate.
“We are doing our best as a collaboration with the organizations within our community to meet this need of issues with homelessness,” Leal said. “Suggestions and positive input that individuals have to be able to help us achieve that would be greatly appreciated and welcomed.”
The Crisis Center of Comal County, which helps victims of domestic violence through comprehensive services, experienced a wealth of community support after an accidental-fire gutted its emergency shelter three weeks ago. No one was hurt as a result of the fire.
Mic Biesboer, a CCC program director, hopes such support is echoed through the coalition of non-profits ongoing efforts to tackle homelessness for decades to come.
“With community challenges comes community solutions and that we’re going to do everything we can to serve the most vulnerable in our community.”