Community collaboration, partnerships aim to help San Antonio’s homeless population amid freezing temps

SAN ANTONIO – Haven for Hope, San Antonio’s largest homeless shelter, has been over capacity in recent nights as dangerously cold temperatures grip the area.

Designed to sleep 1,422 people –– with an overflow capacity of 290 for a total of 1,712 –– Haven for Hope hosted 1,734 people on Sunday night and 1,711 on Monday.

The organization has been working closely with other local nonprofits to provide shelter for any families turned away when the facility reaches total capacity.

Rachel Garcia shared her experience being homeless amid the cold weather.

“It was so cold, nothing to eat. It was very ugly for me,” Garcia said, describing life on the streets.

Garcia, who now lives at Haven for Hope with her daughter, is working toward completing parenting classes and securing an apartment within three months.

Terri Behling, director of communication of Haven for Hope, said reaching capacity is nothing new for the shelter.

“Whenever we had somebody that we had to divert because we had reached our capacity, we were able to transport them over there via taxi and get warm shelter for the night,” Behling said.

On Sunday night, 12 people were transported to other emergency shelters after being turned away from Haven for Hope. The next night, 10 more people were diverted.

When asked if Haven for Hope has plans to open more shelters, Behling said conversations with the city and county about expanding capacity are ongoing.

Behling said the Point-in-Time (PIT) Count is next week. She said the important data collection effort required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Continuums of Care (CoCs) across the country. Its purpose is to get a snapshot of homelessness in each CoC’s geographic area on a single night in January, so Haven for Hope and HUD can understand the number and characteristics of people experiencing homelessness and track progress toward reducing homelessness over time.

Each CoC must plan, coordinate, and carry out a count of sheltered homeless individuals in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and Safe Havens annually, as well as a count of unsheltered homeless individuals every other year on odd-numbered years. The PIT count includes documenting people in both sheltered and unsheltered locations to get a complete picture of homelessness on that given night. The data gathered helps inform local planning and resource allocation to address homelessness.

Haven for Hope is always in need of clothing and monetary donations, especially during cold weather months. Those wishing to help can find more information on its website here.

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