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City Council receives presentation on Homeless Needs Assessment

Needs assessment reveals lack of communication and trust between city officials and homeless community

Sierra Martin | Managing Editor

SAN MARCOS — On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, the San Marcos City Council held a Work Session to receive a presentation regarding the Comprehensive Homeless Needs Assessment final report.

The final report was presented by the Institute for Government Innovation and Department of Sociology at Texas State University and Luminosa Research.

The report’s purpose was to identify what was necessary to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness in San Marcos. Three critical needs were identified: relief services and housing solutions, comprehensive and acceptable data, and collaboration between leadership and key homeless service providers.

The presentation provided feedback from visiting homelessness encampments. The report revealed that the homeless population in San Marcos is confused about their support system and would like increased communication and a consistent point of contact.

In the presentation, an unnamed service provider said, “We are in desperate need of qualified case management. We have no one.”

The population data in the report represented data from Hays County. In the 2019 count, 102 individuals were counted, and 341 students from local school districts were experiencing homelessness. In 2020 the number increased to 359. The utilization of available beds at local domestic violence shelters increased by more than 40% between 2019 and 2020.

The needs assessment revealed that all of the low-income housing options in San Marcos have people on the waiting list, and the total utilization rate is 203%.

Matthew Pantuso, Senior Grant Coordinator with the Institute for Government Innovation, said that the goal of ending homelessness would remain challenging without homes.

“What’s also really important to understand about any system-wide approach to ending homelessness is that it’s complicated. It requires significant Collaboration, coordination, and leadership,” said Pantuso. “Unfortunately, in almost all of our interviews, focus groups and surveys with city staff and local service providers, the theme of poor communication and collaboration was front and center. We also mentioned earlier how those experiencing homelessness identified this problem too.”

Pantuso said that distrust was apparent in their interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Service providers and those experiencing homelessness feel there is a sense of competition for funding and other resources rather than collaboration.

The needs assessment presented four recommendations to address the critical needs in the community. The recommendations were to identify a lead planning and coordinating agency, facilitate collaboration among all community stakeholders, systematically develop a strategic plan to address the critical relief and housing solutions gaps, and collect and analyze data to quantify needs and measure success.

Councilmember Alyssa Garza asked how the city could engage with the unhoused residents in San Marcos. Director of the Institute for Government Innovation, Dr. Rebecca Davio said that finding representatives for the homeless population would be helpful.

“By considering them finding a representative to be on the Strategic Planning Committee, they could play a very, very important role to make sure that the recommendations always come back to what their fundamental needs are, and what the best way to deliver on that [is],” said Davio.

Councilmembers decided to add discussion of a strategic plan to the agendas of the Homeless Committee and Housing Committee.

The full Comprehensive Homeless Needs Assessment can be found below. A video of the work session can be found here.

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