[Hpn] ADVOCATES WANT HOMELESS TREATED THE SAME AS EVACUEES
William Charles Tinker
Sun, 4 Sep 2005 02:52:54 -0400
Advocates want homeless treated same as evacuees
Web Posted: 09/04/2005
Express-News Staff Writer
In a city that lacks the capacity to take care of its chronically homeless,
advocates are worried that Hurricane Katrina disaster relief could tear a
hole in the safety nets for San Antonio's vulnerable population.
What is being done and will be done to accommodate the rapid influx of
people relocated from New Orleans is in sharp contrast to the inadequate
services and facilities available to local homeless people, they say.
For the evacuees, plans are in the works to find jobs and regular housing,
albeit temporary, but such services for local homeless people are not nearly
as organized or extensive.
The Rev. John Flowers of Travis Park United Methodist Church said he'd like
to see the city's response to hurricane survivors used as a model for
helping homeless residents.
"This at least raises the level of consciousness about what is needed to
take care of the homeless," Councilwoman Patti Radle said Saturday. "We're
bringing in all these homeless, but what about what we're doing for our own
Radle has been lobbying city staff in the past week to find $236,000 to fund
two initiatives that would provide housing for homeless families at the
Dwyer Avenue shelter and day care for homeless children.
"I'm just blown away," said Carolyn Meyer, an advocate with Holy Spirit
Homeless Ministry. "Homelessness didn't even make the (City Council's) list
of 19 priorities."
As of late Friday, Assistant City Manager Frances Gonzalez said funding for
the two programs could come from existing balances in the fiscal year 2004
budget for social service agencies.
"But it will still be of a one-time nature," she said of the money, meaning
permanent funding would have to be found.
Beyond those two projects, no new programs set out in the city's 10-year
plan to curb chronic homelessness and hunger are funded in the proposed
budget, something that was causing great concern among advocates before
Hurricane Katrina was even a tropical storm.
"The evacuees are going to impact the old homeless infrastructure because we
didn't have any excess capacity," Meyer said. "We're just barely addressing
San Antonio's needs."
Those working in the trenches providing relief for Katrina evacuees have
seen no immediate impact, however.
Flowers said the city's budget does little more than address warehousing
homeless people rather than help them transform their lives with social
Furthermore, the creation of new resources to take care of the evacuees is
"the kind of help one would hope for in terms of emergency housing and
transitional housing for the homeless of San Antonio," he said.
Setting up massive temporary housing at KellyUSA is an option that should be
explored for the city's regular homeless population, Flowers added.
Both Meyer and Flowers said they want the city to consider relaxing
enforcement of ordinances that ban sleeping in public without a permit and
other behaviors typically associated with the homeless.
"If we're bringing in folks who were homeless in New Orleans because of an
untreated mental illness, then they're not going to be any more easily
housed at Kelly than they were at the Superdome," Flowers said. "Their
illness would lead to behaviors that would not allow them to stay there."
Salvation Army Capt. Mike Morton said the mobile canteen typically used to
feed the homeless downtown has been diverted to disaster relief, which is
the organization's primary mission.
"When we're not engaged in disaster relief, we can use the canteen locally
where we see fit," he said. "The nice thing is we can feed them under the
bridge with the understanding that it would be diverted in a disaster."
Beyond the immediate response to the disaster, Morton said the indigent
homeless shouldn't see resources pulled from them.
Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a ministry that serves the homeless and working
poor, is maintaining its ministry to the homeless while it helps with
disaster relief, said Tricia Graham, who works with the ministry in Austin.
"Right now we are not diverting any funds from the homeless," Graham said.
With the arrival of many needy people from New Orleans, Flowers' church
today will discuss opening its doors to all homeless people around the
clock, but one concern is whether enough volunteers - in high demand now -
will be available.
Still, he is looking beyond the disaster with a healthy dose of optimism.
"You hate like the dickens to say anything good could come out of tragedy,"
he said. "But one thing ... could be more attention to the problems with
untreated mental illness and homelessness."
William Charles Tinker
New Hampshire Homeless / Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.