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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Local organizations call for city aid to assist homeless population

%28Left+to+right%29+Ruben+Hernandez%2C+Gilbert+%26%23193%3Blvarez+and+Tony+Patlan+pose+for+a+photo%2C+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+20%2C+2021%2C+by+East+Grove+Street+and+South+LBJ+Drive.+%26%23193%3Blvarez+appreciates+the+local+people+and+groups+that+reach+out+to+help+himself+and+others.

(Left to right) Ruben Hernandez, Gilbert Álvarez and Tony Patlan pose for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Álvarez appreciates the local people and groups that reach out to help himself and others.

Local organizations that work with the homeless population are looking toward City Council for assistance as they face capacity limits and an increased need for motel room stays.
Due to lack of aid and pandemic barriers, homeless shelters and support systems in San Marcos, such as Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army, have faced numerous challenges. Temporary motel housing provided by the Salvation Army has been left without appropriate funding to match the increase in demand, while capacity limits at Southside Community Center have left those in need sleeping on the streets. 
The demand for assistance has prompted the San Marcos City Council to consider expanding outreach and support for homeless individuals throughout the city. Councilmember Maxfield Baker says the local homeless situation is urgent enough to warrant valuable city time and money. 
“We need to have structure in place and [have the] city step up and build a newer, better shelter, or maybe [have] the city [allow] nonprofits who may have more flexibility to take the lead,” Baker says.
To ensure social distancing, Southside Community Center has reduced its overnight capacity to only six individuals a night; this system operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most individuals seeking shelter are ultimately denied access at the door and are left bedless for the night. 
According to HOME Center, there are over 50 homeless children within the city limits, most of whom lack the support they need. Additionally, School Fuel, a local nonprofit working to feed struggling children, is granted only $15,000 a year.
Baker, who says there is not enough financial assistance to combat homelessness, is urging people to understand the seriousness of local homelessness.
“If homeless adults aren’t sad enough, we really have to focus on homeless kids to get people to truly understand how severe this issue is,” Baker says.
Ruben Garza, executive director at Southside Community Center, calls on the city and community to take action. Garza believes council meetings and ideas are not enough, and while the shelter does its best with what it has, real action is required to help the local homeless community. 
“It would be nice if there was action. For years, [City Council] has had ideas and meeting after meeting, but I’ve seen no action,” Garza says. “Southside can only do so much with the resources we have; we do what we can and are criticized from time to time, but at least we do something and it’s time for this community to get off their butts and do something.” 
Living while homeless presents its own challenges and setbacks. Jacob Crow, a resident of San Marcos, has been homeless for two years and wishes a bigger effort was made to support him and other homeless citizens.
“It gets tough in several different ways; you can get used to it without ever intending it to be a lifestyle; that’s kind of scary,” Crow says. “I hate it; you tend to see a lot when you are out here that the average person overlooks. There is an effort to fix things, but there should be more to make sure it doesn’t recur.”
Because of the minimum access to shelters, Crow says he is not always able to get the help he needs; however, he is also hesitant due to an incident in which his birth certificate was stolen at a shelter. 
“I haven’t been able to take a shower because I don’t get let in; people just tell me to jump in the river,” Crow says. “I had my birth certificate stolen from my locker; someone just broke [the locker] and took it.”
The local Salvation Army, which has various programs that support those in need, helps homeless people like Crow reclaim birth certificates and social security numbers in its Reclaim My Name program. 
However, while reclaiming identities to help homeless people find jobs is an integral part of what the Salvation Army does, it is not its main priority. The Salvation Army works largely with local motels at discounted rates to provide homeless individuals a bed on colder nights throughout the year.
While the stay is only temporary, Anthony Torres, a regional representative for the Salvation Army, believes with a larger budget from the city, the organization could give people a second chance and longer stay.
“Instead of a max three-day motel stay, if we had the funding, we would do a month-long stay or longer to figure out how we can get these folks from on the street to being sustainable,” Torres says. “In one of our motels, we put up a food pantry where folks can go to the front office and say ‘I’m hungry’ and we will help them. If we had [more funding], we would do that same process in all our motels, so people don’t just have a place to sleep; they also have a place to eat.”
Torres is also calling upon young people in the city to get involved in the effort to assist the homeless population. 
“In the last few years, there has been a disconnect with young folks,” Torres says. “Getting young folks to be involved, getting them to volunteer, to serve, and to donate and getting them to recognize that people out there need help.”
City Council says it will continue to follow up on its plans to support the homeless population in San Marcos at future meetings.

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  • Gilbert Álvarez and Tony Patlan pose for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Patlan says a new homeless shelter in the city would be great, as he and others could use the help.

  • Ruben Hernandez poses for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Hernandez says he has been homeless for about four years.

  • Tony Patlan poses for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Patlan says it is difficult for him to walk around, after being hit by a truck. The incident had him in the hospital for two months.

  • Gilbert Álvarez poses for a photo while underneath a blanket, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Álvarez showed concern that it would soon snow again in the city.

  • Gilbert Álvarez poses for a photo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, by East Grove Street and South LBJ Drive. Álvarez, who welcomed the photo, says he has been homeless for many years.

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