San Antonio’s 2023 homelessness count shows 5% increase over previous year
The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH) presented its Point In Time (PIT) Count Report on Wednesday to showcase the effectiveness of the community’s solution to homelessness in San Antonio and Bexar County.
The PIT Count is a one-night snapshot of a community’s homeless community required for all Continuums of Care (CoC). As the region’s CoC lead agency, SARAH led the planning and implementation of the survey with Haven for Hope and other local providers in January.
The overall count of people experiencing homelessness was 3,155, a 5.3% increase from last year, which saw 2,995 people. Of the people seen in 2023, 2,281 individuals were sheltered, meaning they were living or sleeping in an emergency shelter, safe haven or transitional housing, and 874 were unsheltered, meaning they were living or sleeping in a space not meant for human habitation.
“We saw a slight increase in our overall count, but the good news we saw is that unsheltered homelessness is down ... and the increase we’re seeing in shelters is really due to families with children, and so we’re working on strategies to address that,” explained Katie Vela, executive director of SARAH.
According to the report, there are 253 sheltered families in San Antonio and Bexar County, a 28% increase from last year. The count includes families with one child or more. In previous years, the number of families experiencing homelessness was low because of pandemic-era federal assistance, including the CARES Act funding, which was directed toward SARAH’s Rapid Rehousing program.
Evictions have picked back up, and there is a decrease in emergency funding. Vela said there have been conversations and strategizing over creating sustainable funding and programing to prevent homelessness among families.
Melody Woosley, director of the Department of Human Services at the City of San Antonio, said the department is focused on continuing work from last year. Those efforts created low-barrier shelters with SAMMinistries for people experiencing chronic homelessness — or homelessness that lasts 12 months or more with a disabling condition. Chronic homelessness decreased by 33% from last year, according to the report.
“We're focused on, ‘how do we find those different shelter and housing options for people?’” Woosley said. “Because … we're realizing how important it is to treat people individually and treat households individually so that we have options.”
The survey asked unsheltered individuals to rank their top three needs from a list. The top-ranked answer was housing or shelter at 26% followed by food and general transportation.
“What we all agree on across the whole response system from street outreach to shelter to housing programs is that we need affordable housing options that people can live in and sustain with their incomes, and we need housing with on-sight services,” Vela said.
Among SARAH’s plans for the remainder of the year, Vela said an organization name change is forthcoming. The new name will better represent the geographical scope of SARAH’s outreach and use people-first language.
“We really want to transform the conversation into, ‘these are people and they’re more than their circumstances,’” Vela said. “So [we're] looking at that name evolving with our mission.”