By Christopher Green
SAN MARCOS, Texas — San Marcos City Council has begun the process of working with local nonprofit organizations in allocating funds to help with needs of the homeless in Hays County.
The city council recently was granted $400,000 from the American Rescue Plan to implement transitional housing efforts. The council will work with Texas State University to create a needs assessment plan to decide how to allocate the funds.
The American Rescue Plan is a U.S. $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021. The bill aims to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.
In San Marcos and Hays County, the needs assessment plan utilizes a point-in-time survey, which is conducted through local nonprofit organizations like H.O.M.E Center.
H.O.M.E. Center is a nonprofit organization that helps people experiencing homelessness by showing them how to apply for services as well as providing them with food, water and motel rooms to stay in.
After the needs assessment is completed city council will be able to determine where and how the funds will be used. Data from the assessment will be used to gather information about the homeless and how nonprofits can work with city council to suit the needs of the homeless.
2020 was the first time San Marcos has used the point-in-time survey and now it will be used annually. The survey will help council in allocating ARP funds.
When the survey was taken in 2020 there was a total of 102 people experiencing homelessness. Most of them were over the age of 18 and male.
The point-in-time survey conducted in 2020 shows the total population of those experiencing homelessness in San Marcos.
City council member Maxfield Baker said the plan is to get organizations to work better with each other.
“Right now, these different nonprofits get funding and prove they’ve met their goal, but their individual goal isn’t piecing into the larger goal of ending homelessness,” Baker said.
Baker said the assessment helps nonprofits work together which will help in using the funds from American Rescue Plan. The data from the assessment is used by nonprofits to identify demographics and living conditions of the homeless.
The data will help non profits better coordinate with each other and city council.
“By establishing this network now it’ll make the American rescue Plan funds that much more productive once we finish the needs assessment,” Baker said.
Baker also said he would like to see some of the funds be used in a project such as working with Southside Community Center, a local nonprofit that works to improve living conditions for those in need in San Marcos.
“My hope would be that we could take $300,000 of that $400,000 and do one project,” said Baker. “One of the recipients of funds like these has been Southside Community Center, so how much better could facilities like that be if we could put a bigger chunk toward that,” Baker said.
Baker said the needs assessment and ARP funds will better guide in helping deal with homelessness.
“I think one of the end goals we need to look for in San Marcos is setting ourselves up for better transitional housing because right now our only answer to emergency housing is Southside Community Center and Salvation Army,” Baker said. “I’m fairly confident the needs assessment will point us in that direction.”
Hannah Durrance, president of H.O.M.E Center, said a lot of the people they work with who are homeless don’t know how to apply and receive benefits.
“A lot of the times they’re afraid to try and get those resources or they don’t understand what the resources will do, so we try to explain it to them and make it easier for them to access it,” Durrance said.
Data from the point-in-time survey shows how many people experiencing homelessness were receiving disability services.
The Homeless Coalition of Hays County which was founded by Tegan Debrock is also working with city council to address needs of the homeless. The coalition is still in its first year of operation.
Debrock said they have applied for funding from the city to implement programs to help the homeless community.
“One of the first things we started doing was outreach and trying to get funding to implement a few different housing intervention programs such as transitional housing and rapid rehousing,” Debrock said.
Debrock said H.O.M.E Center could receive funding.
H.O.M.E Center has applied for a $150,000 grant from the city of San Marcos Human Services Grant for a transitional housing program.”
When the survey was conducted it showed that most of those surveyed had been experiencing homelessness for over three years.
Data from the 2020 point-in-time survey shows how many people have spent time staying in shelters or living on the streets over the past three years.
George Carpenter, a local San Marcos resident who has been homeless for 15 years, said people could see that homelessness is an issue if they took the time to get to know those dealing with homelessness.
“If they would just take a little time to get to know somebody like me, they would see we’re people too we’re people just trying to make it,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter became homeless after suffering a head injury while working at a tree trimming service. Carpenter’s injury left him with brain trauma that caused him to be unable to continue working as a tree trimmer.
Carpenter also said organizations that help people dealing with homelessness only have limited resources before they are unable to help anymore.
“Organizations out there that help people only help you out to an extent and then they don’t know what to do anymore,” Carpenter said. “I like to say if you really take a good look at people like us, you’d see we’re people too.”
George Carpenter is over 50 years old. Most of the people surveyed experiencing homelessness were 25 to 34 years old with the next highest age ranger being 45 to 54 years old.
With places like Southside Community Center and Salvation Army at capacity people who are homeless sometimes have to find different places and areas to sleep.
Data from the point-in-time survey shows where people experiencing homelessness were sleeping.