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City continues to address homelessness

SAN ANTONIO- We are learning just how large of a homeless population exists in San Antonio, more than 27,000 people were counted as experiencing homelessness last year.

"City and County leaders say when working to eliminate homlessness, one of the largest factors is mental health, we learned today it costs more than 80-million dollars a year to provide for the homeless population in Bexar county."

"When we say we are working to end homelessness what we are talking about is creating systems that ensure that we have the options they need and the services they need to get help,” said City of San Antonio Director of Human Services Melody Woosley.

Last December the city announced their plans to address homelessness through public safety and social services. The city and police department formed an impact team, offering services and help. From October of last year to this month they have contacted more than 1,300 people.

392 people refused services and 539 were referred to other agencies for help.

"If someone is breaking the law, and it’s a serious breach of the peace, then we will arrest them, if not we will tell them to move on, they will and the ones who want to take advantage of the services, we will provide them transportation along with their pets if they have any,” said San Antonio police Chief William McManus.

Another problem that can stem from homelessness, panhandling and trespassing. Chief McManus says they arrested more than 18-hundred people for trespassing last year and more than 2,000 for panhandling.

"We ask them to leave, they leave and they come back and this goes on and on and on,” said Chief McManus.

The city's human services department says they need to be able to provide more options for mental health.

"Individuals who have those issues really can't address more basic needs in their lives, whether its shelter or jobs or self-sufficiency until they first can address addiction or mental health issues,” said Woosley.

The county and city are now working together in submitting a proposal for grant funding that would give police more authority to detain and get treatment for severe addicts who are repeatedly arrested.

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