County commissioners address homelessness, hear veteran services update
Bexar County commissioners on Tuesday approved an outreach program intended to curb homelessness in Precinct 2.
The county has partnered with the City of Leon Valley and Haven for Hope to begin the countywide outreach in Leon Valley.
Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley expressed her thanks to commissioners for backing the outreach program.
"Earlier this year, we had 11 encampments, "Riley told the commissioners. "We had two and three fires. We've passed a real strict ordinance, but we also knew we needed to do more and so ... our staff reached out to the county and other agencies, Haven for Hope and Close to Home, and we put our brains together and this is the outgrowth of that."
The pilot program is backed by the county's allocation of more than $5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
According to the 2023 Point-in-Time Count, the total number of people experiencing homelessness in Bexar County was more than 3,100, about a 5% increase over 2022.
In other action, commissioners heard an update from Keith Wilson, head of the county's Department of Military and Veterans Services on its efforts to serve veterans in 2023.
The department strives to connect local veterans and their families with the benefits and services they are entitled following their military service.
Wilson told how the department helped one woman who filed for spousal benefits more than two decades ago. She finally received a huge windfall after a long delay.
"She just received nearly $400,000 ... tax free from the United States government for benefits she was owed," Wilson said. "She's 92 years old, and her life and many of her family will forever be changed because she came and got the benefits she deserves from the right people."
In total in 2023, the department served more than 2,100 veterans and helped them receive nearly $9 million in earned claims. It also responded to nearly 8,600 inquiries from veterans between March 1 and Sept. 30 of this year.
Commissioners also approved nearly $2 million for Halff to design improvements for Rodriguez County Park, near Old Highway 90 and Leon Creek.
The planned improvements include enhanced soccer fields, a softball and baseball field, upgraded basketball and tennis courts, and a pickleball court.
There will also be new fitness areas, an obstacle course, splash pad, and playground. and renovations to existing pavilions, restrooms, and improved parking areas to include electric vehicle charging stations.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez pushed for the improvements to the park, which covers 41 acres and opened in 1953.
"The revitalization of Rodriguez County Park is not just about upgrading a park; it's about reinvigorating our community," he said. "Investing in these improvements means investing in the well-being and future of our precinct by promoting wellness, accessibility, and unity among our residents."
As part of the county's Capital Improvements Program, commissioners have committed a total of $12 million toward improvements at the park.