The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development selected San Antonio and Bexar County as one of 29 communities that will receive additional funding and housing subsidies aimed at reducing the unhoused population.
The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH) will distribute more than $14.5 million in HUD grants to various service organizations.
“The work continues and the best is yet to come,” Katie Vela, executive director of SARAH, said at a press conference Monday.
This money is in addition to the $17 million SARAH received last month as part of its annual funding allocation from HUD. That batch of funding can be used more broadly for services that help people experiencing homelessness in and outside of shelters, while this batch is targeted toward helping those who are unsheltered, Vela said.
The most recent one-night survey of people experiencing homelessness showed that Bexar County’s total unsheltered population decreased from 2020 by about one-fifth, but the unsheltered, chronically homeless population rose by 4.5%.
In addition to the money announced Monday, HUD is giving Opportunity Home San Antonio, the city’s housing authority, 41 additional housing stability vouchers and six more to the Bexar County Housing Authority.
While Housing Choice Vouchers, known as Section 8 vouchers, are generally for low-income families. Stability vouchers are specifically aimed to “assist households experiencing or at risk of homelessness, those fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking and veterans,” according to HUD.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai and dozens of officials from various government departments and area service organizations gathered at the Hudson Apartments on Monday to celebrate the news of the grant.
SAMMinistries is slated to receive $4.25 million from the city’s bond on Thursday toward the renovation of the Hudson Apartments into a single-site permanent supportive housing project, meaning there will be supportive services such as addiction recovery and physical and mental health clinics available on campus, ultimately housing 24 families and 36 individuals.
They heard from Peter Crosby, 36, who has experienced mental health issues and homelessness on and off since he was 22 years old. Crosby is currently on a waitlist for housing through SAMMinistries and hopes this funding will shorten the list.
“It’s nice to finally feel like not only I am making progress, but the rest of the world is, too,” he told the crowd.
It’s a common misconception that people choose to be homeless, Crosby told the San Antonio Report as dignitaries and agency staff mingled in the Hudson’s courtyard. He said he has struggled with mental health issues but is now receiving therapy and medication.
“I never chose that lifestyle,” he said. “I’m starting fresh.”
Through a competitive bidding process, local agencies that work with the unhoused population applied for HUD funding through SARAH last fall. The allocation announced Monday will go toward permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, street outreach, programs that connect residents to social security and disability benefits.
- Nearly $5 million for Haven for Hope
- Nearly $8 million for SAMMinistries
- Nearly $1.3 million for SA Hope Center
SARAH, which serves as the designated lead Continuum of Care agency for San Antonio and Bexar County, SARAH distributes federal money, but it’s also a recipient. It was awarded more than $500,000, which it will use for system infrastructure.
San Antonio received the second-largest grant in Texas during this round. Dallas and Irving counties received nearly $23 million. The City of Austin and Travis County received nearly $8 million.
“Families need housing first,” said Candace Valenzuela, regional administrator in HUD’s Southwest region. “I cannot say this enough.”
Valenzuela experienced homelessness as a child; she said Monday she knows how hard it is to attend school when you’re “worried about where you’re going to stay [and] how you’re going to get food at night.”
The Biden Administration has adopted a “housing first” approach to homelessness as part of its strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, which aims to reduce all homelessness by 25% by 2025.
Last year, San Antonio was the first city to achieve its goal as part of a federal initiative, which was to house 1,500 people experiencing homelessness.
“All of that good work has made this investment possible,” Valenzuela said. “And I look forward to coming back … to celebrate more of your success.”