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- San Antonio Current
- One of thousands of tickets issued to San Antonio's homeless since 2012.
Thousands Ticketed for Homelessness
Following the short-lived (and short-sighted) proposal by outgoing San Antonio Police Chief William McManus to ticket individuals who donate to panhandlers, we began exploring how the City addresses chronic homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse among those living on the streets. We reported that the San Antonio Police Department issued more than 12,000 citations from January 2013 through October of this year—often writing multiple tickets in one encounter with an individual—for "quality of life" offenses like panhandling, aggressive solicitation, camping in public and urinating or defecating in public.
While more than 5,000 citations were issued for violations of the City's anti-solicitation ordinances, more than 3,000 were issued for violations that are likely to occur if an individual doesn't have a place to sleep. Indigent offenders can't afford the fines associated with the citations, and because the municipal court that handles these tickets can't escalate the offenses, individuals cycle in and out of the system. Tickets we obtained revealed officers sometimes write things like "too filthy to sign," "refused to sign mentally ill" or "filthy-urine on hands" on the ticket signature line. Some homeless individuals told us during our reporting that they receive multiple tickets at once, aren't given the chance to sign their citations or feel mistreated by the police officers, while the police department told us they are working with the tools they have, which are criminally based: citations and arrests. In an effort to find a more sustainable and civil-oriented solution that also prioritizes getting ill individuals help, the police department, municipal court, mental health probate court and other stakeholders say they're working together toward a solution that would divert individuals to mental health and substance abuse services.