SAN ANTONIO — The City of San Antonio continues to battle the issue of homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted concern from business owners and those who once lived on the streets.
West Commerce Street is just one area of San Antonio experiencing an increase in homeless people with camps popping up throughout the area.
One business owner expressed frustration over the situation due to some homeless individuals leaving human waste in close proximity to the storefront.
It’s a problem that’s been apparent since before the coronavirus. The business owner didn’t wish to be identified because she fears retaliation from the homeless community, which she says has been violent in the past.
Molly Wright once lived on the streets of San Antonio following an issue with her original housing.
For six months, Wright resided in a car alongside her dog, yet still managed to hold a paying job.
Now she assists those who’ve fallen to homelessness for the first time.
Wright is overall critical of the city’s approach to tackling the homeless issue.
She said more can be done to help the community. Wright credits non-profit organization Yanawana Herbolarious for their efforts toward enacting positive change.
“They’re working with the city to try to come up with a proposal where the city will provide them with a way that the encampments can still exist and yet the community around them won’t complain about the way how it looks,” Wright said.
The City of San Antonio adheres to CDC guidelines by not removing certain homeless encampments.
“That doesn’t mean that we’re not removing homeless encampments on private property. But if they’re legally on public property, we are not disbanding the encampments,” said Assistant City Manager Dr. Colleen Bridger.
Bridger noted on July 9, there have been strides to expand shelter access to the high-risk homeless community in the form of 500 additional beds.
The city is partnered with a number of organizations such as Haven for Hope to provide for the homeless population and enact safety protocols to reduce transmission of the virus.
Haven for Hope resumed intake of homeless a few weeks ago. Organization officials say only a handful of homeless people through the shelter have contracted the coronavirus.
Wright urges the city to consider adopting a program that aids homeless individuals who live in their cars like she once did two years ago.
“They have to push the city to create an overnight parking program and that would get them out of what they’re seeing and into a safe place,” Wright said.
In April, the city setup a Homeless Connection Hotline where people can learn about available resources such as food and shelter information. The hotline’s number is 210-207-1799.