Why can’t we provide a place for these homeless people to go? It is a common remark one hears as they pass the massive tent cities that line the streets of so many Californian neighborhoods. Anybody in need can find a place to call home at San Antonio’s Haven for Hope.

Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for CalMatters.

Haven for Hope for the Californians

Some California politicians are taking notice of what one Texas City did. But can California follow the example — and should it? From the news report of ABC 10, a 22-acre, 1,600-person shelter named Haven for Hope in San Antonio takes on the homelessness epidemic on a scale unheard of in California. 85% of the city’s overall homeless people are served by the said facility. It almost ensures that anyone who wants to sleep indoors can do so while having access to a wide range of on-site social services.

Rich Desmond, a Sacramento County Supervisor who visited the campus in 2021 and attempted to implement elements of the concept into programs in his jurisdiction, claimed that Haven for Hope had not been able to give shelter to all homeless people in San Antonio. However, California has done better jobs than other places.

A few California politicians and charitable organizations propose recreating Haven for Hope (or at least parts of it) here as they scramble to find new answers to what appears to be an intractable problem initiative is comparable to the San Antonio-inspired idea that a Placer County group previously supported for the west of Rocklin in the Sierra Nevada foothills is being promoted by a grassroots organization in Sacramento.

With 80 bunk beds in a room or several hundred mats spaced closely together on the floor, the San Antonio shelter also has cramped living quarters. There are a lot of those kinds of shelters in California as well. However, authorities and organizations in this area are increasingly utilizing motels, tiny homes, and other establishments that have a smaller capacity but provide inhabitants with a private place with a closing door.

For Californians, the San Antonio shelter’s conservative heritage is yet another warning sign. Bill Greehey, the first CEO of Valero Energy Corporation and a benefactor of former President Donald Trump, provided the initial funding. Robert Marbut Jr., its first CEO, later served as the chairman of Trump’s U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Clients were initially required to sleep on mats in an outdoor courtyard, but if they behaved well, they may be given mattresses, better meals, and access to more services.

The present management of Haven for Hope claims that since Marbut left more than ten years ago, the program has altered “night and day” – there is no longer open-air sleeping, for example.  However, Marbut’s actions left a lasting impression that affects how other organizations that serve homeless people view the website. The compromises are evident. Although Haven for Hope is successful in getting a lot of homeless people off the streets, it hasn’t been as successful in finding them permanent housing.

Californians are drawn to Haven for Hope because of the shelter’s inclusive design in addition to its size. The campus offers offices with professionals who may assist clients with getting a new ID, finding accommodation, getting a job, or securing disability benefits, among other things. It also has medical, dental, and eye care clinics, a hair salon, a free clothing store, childcare, and counseling services.

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Homeless People hugely Benefit from the Housing

The goal is to streamline the time-consuming, bureaucratic process of helping them get back on their feet. Clients may complete everything in one location rather than having to travel about town to appointments at several departments, which might be difficult for those without a car to do. It is a facility with beds for addiction treatment, detox, and mental health crises and is located across the street for those who require more assistance.

Paul Anthony, 51, one of California’s homeless people, has been intermittently residing in the San Antonio shelter for five months, sharing a bunk bed with 20 other homeless people. Anthony had previously slept in the woods, in a storage facility, and on a piece of cardboard in the city because he had problems finding work following a period in jail for a felony charge of unlawful use of a motor vehicle. The facility’s stringent restrictions have helped him maintain his sobriety since he moved in, he claimed,

Although Haven takes pride in welcoming everyone, including those who are sleeping when other rooms become full, the vast campus model has several disadvantages. The shelter is used much more than it was designed to. Hundreds of people also sleep on mats on the cafeteria floor while some are given bunk beds. One man claimed that because the mats are so close together, he accidentally rolled into his neighbor in the middle of the night, almost starting a brawl. Another man claimed that when he woke up, someone had puked on him.

Many individuals have spoken about how Haven for Hope helped them through their struggles and saved them as being homeless people, sleeping on the streets.

The other, known as the “transformational campus,” offers bunk beds to those who are fortunate enough to earn a spot and compels clients to submit to routine breathalyzer and drug testing. Additionally, clients are required to engage with staff on a plan to obtain permanent accommodation and an income.

However, Nick Golling, Sacramento’s director of homeless people services, believes that many elements of Haven for Hope are effective. He favors offering them the option of sober living, for starters.

In California, it is difficult to find the room and the political will to adopt an all-inclusive mega-shelter like Haven for Hope. The Oakland City Council decided to explore converting a former Army barracks into a shelter for at least 1,000 people last year, but the city administration soon moved to stop the plan, sparking a contentious discussion in the council chambers. Council members decided to research a streamlined version of that original concept instead.

Desmond said he’d like to create something like Haven for Hope in Sacramento County, but the county couldn’t find a location big enough. But a grassroots organization called Hope for Sacramento has made it its single mission to bring San Antonio’s model to the state’s capital.

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