A father photographs his daughters as they swing at Hemisfair Park on June 18, 2019
A father photographs his daughters as they swing at at Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

2020 has arrived and leaders in San Antonio are asking, “What is next for San Antonio?” Decade of the Family, a movement aiming to revive the heart of our city and bring to fruition the hopes of our citizens, calls for everyone in San Antonio to find their highest and best role to make San Antonio the best city to raise a family in by 2030.

In 2009, then-Mayor Julián Castro and other city leaders declared a “Decade of Downtown,” casting a vision to revitalize San Antonio’s urban core. Since then, the landscape of downtown has been radically updated. Buildings like the Frost Tower elucidate San Antonio’s skyline, the Pearl District revived a blighted area, and 9,000 new apartments and condos were developed. But for San Antonio to continue to advance, we must revitalize the core of who we are – a city motivated by family.

In the shadows of the success of the Decade of Downtown are struggling families. For many families in our city, basic needs ranging from housing to health are not being met. Particular needs such as mental heath, financial literacy, job readiness, and mentoring are inaccessible, and skills needed for specialized development are segregated and unavailable to many.

Our group wants to to help every family thrive in a productive, positive manner by serving as a resource for connection, communication, restoration, and hope.??

Together we will ensure every family has its basic needs met, gets access to its particular needs, and develops skills needed to flourish.

Where are we now?

Regardless of socioeconomic status, every family and family unit longs for connection, commitment, and care with stability in order to flourish. Unfortunately, this is not the situation of many in our city.

Consider the Carter family story, one of many 2019 narratives unheard due to the sound of celebration from the Decade of Downtown. Ms. Carter, a single mother with three children, was living with a partner in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Despite multiple attempts to develop sustainable revenue, the family unit could not pay rising rent costs and other bills. The landlord had no patience and the Carter family had no network for support, leaving the streets and sidewalks of our revitalized downtown area their only refuge. 

Family homelessness rose in San Antonio last year by 18 percent as the rising cost of housing, surprise medical bills, lost jobs, low salaries, or other various practical needs left unmet led to the loss of housing. Many San Antonio residents celebrating the revitalization of the downtown are surprised to hear stories like the Carters’ because of our city’s economic segregation.

Many in our city are isolated from the devastation of poverty, but no one is isolated from the pain points of the breakdown of the family. The fracturing of family is indiscriminate in sending casualties downstream as families from every socioeconomic sector of our city are experiencing a rise in diseases and deaths of despair – anxiety, depression, suicide, and the like. The unraveling of family rips a tear in the fabric of our entire society. If we want San Antonio to flourish we must work together to ensure every family flourishes.

The story of the family is the story of a city

What happens if the Carter family unit stays on the streets? The downstream casualties would flood our revitalized downtown and the rest of our city.

Children living in harmful and dangerous family situations are removed by Child Protective Services (CPS) and placed in the foster care system. Fifty percent of the homeless population and 60 percent of child sex trafficking victims come out of the foster care system. It is estimated by The Center for Children’s Law and Policy that 90 percent of foster care children with five or more placements will end up in prison, too.

The downstream casualties of family deterioration also have direct correlation with addiction, literacy rates, and crime rates. The bottom line: If we do not fight for the flourishing of our families, then San Antonio will be flooded by the downstream casualties of the family breakdown.

Flourishing families will lead to a flourishing San Antonio

What eventually happened to the Carter family in 2019? The Carter family reached out to a citizen of San Antonio who cared, Charlie Foltz, founder of SA Heals, a nonprofit with a mission to fight poverty and provide hope on San Antonio’s East Side. 

Foltz helped connect the family to the Kingdom Restoration Lab, The KRL is a collaborative ministry partnership located at First Presbyterian Church housing different organizations working together to more holistically care for and restore the lives of the homeless and under-resourced in San Antonio. Through the KRL the Carter family was connected with SA Hope and its team of social workers who took action on their behalf, establishing a network of organizations, churches, and individuals who would support the Carter family unit. Through this network the Carters accessed affordable housing and set goals to change the trajectory of their lives. Today, the Carters are making slow but steady progress. Ms. Carter and her fiance are working to obtain GEDs through special classes as they are trained by a job readiness specialist to develop the skills needed for a sustainable job. The family has found security and stability.

Join the movement – Everyone in every sphere of San Antonio has a role in Decade of the Family

San Antonio is often called “a big small town” and now more than ever we must work together to reclaim the core of who we are as a city. Decade of the Family will empower individuals, businesses, nonprofits, government offices, faith communities, schools, health care providers, influencers, foundations, and families to find their highest and best role for the flourishing of families in our city, making San Antonio the best city to raise a family in by 2030.

Our group is looking for partners to collaborate with in supporting our city’s families. Networking to ensure every family and family unit has access to basic needs, particular needs, and special skills will require leaders, organizations, and citizens in every sphere of society to collaborate and serve together in trusting relationships. San Antonio is a city that celebrates family and, together, we can succeed in making San Antonio the best city in the United States to raise a family!

For more information, visit decadeoffamily.org or UnicitySA.org and and mark your calendar for the Decade of the Family launch on Monday, Feb. 24, at 10:30 am at the Pearl Stables.

Rev. A. Mitchell Moore is Associate Pastor for Young Adults and Missions at First Presbyterian Church of San Antonio.