Providing the homeless with adequate services and care has been a city priority for years, but as San Antonio continues to grow, government must strike a balance between promoting public safety while also working to decriminalize homelessness. After a recent ride-along with the San Antonio Police Department, mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal said relying on the criminal justice system isn't sustainable and ultimately wastes money.
"We need to provide programs that help people early on," Villarreal said. "And our police officers need to do what they are doing, to improve the general climate of public safety for all of us, whether it's a homeless person or somebody who has a home."
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who's also running for mayor, said initiatives like the one we report on this week between police, the courts and organizations such as Haven for Hope to provide more effective services to chemically dependent homeless must continue. Officials must also work harder to gather data that reveal why individuals are homeless and learn more about their needs, she added.
"I'm hoping that we can do as we've done in other occasions, which is find a solution to reduce the need in the first place," Van de Putte said. "Convening people, figuring out the extent of the problem, getting some good numbers, understanding that homeless folks are not monolithic."