• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Downtown homeless camp cleared; TxDOT Closing Area

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 25, 2022

SAN ANTONIO – This isn’t the first time a homeless camp under I-37 has been emptied, but the Texas Department of Transportation hopes it may be the last.

TxDOT and City of San Antonio employees, as well as SAPD, were at the site near Brooklyn Avenue Thursday morning, where dozens of people camped out — near the services they use. While the people staying there packed up what they could, city crews cleaned up whatever was left.

“This morning I woke up at 7:14 a.m., and it was like the cops were there and we had to hurry up and leave,” Sipriano “Tony” Martinez told KSAT.

Spokespersons for the city and TxDOT both said there have already been sweeps of homeless camps in that area — a process the city calls “reduction.”

However, this time, TxDOT spokeswoman Laura Lopez said the state agency was installing fencing over much of the area between Nolan Street in the south to just north of Hays Street – work that was already underway on Thursday.

The agency has received complaints from nearby businesses and landlords, she said, and this would “hopefully” be the final reduction.

Thursday evening, however, the tents were already resurfacing under the highway. And there are plans to lease a portion of the state’s right-of-way under the freeway near Brooklyn Avenue, which Lopez said would not be fenced.

Roland Martinez, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Social Services, said homeless outreach coordinators visited the camp ahead of time, offering to connect them with services and encouraging them to go to local shelters.

The coordinators were back at the camp on Thursday during the clearance, as were other community members who were looking to help.

Although the city’s reduction of homeless camps is a common practice, it also draws criticism.

“It is extremely traumatic to forcibly displace people without appropriate and durable solutions for them,” said Hannah Taylor, who runs the self-help group Uplift SA. “It’s a centralized place with a lot of resources from the community, from a bodega. We have (Corzaon Ministries), we have showers, we have health clinics, we have (Christian Assistance Ministry). We have a gas station downstairs, bus stops. So where is – where, like, people are supposed to go? Except where are the resources?

With his things loaded onto two cars and with two small dogs in tow, Martinez said he “probably won’t” go to a shelter. However, he also didn’t know where he would go instead.

“There is no plan B, no plan C. So I have to put myself in the hands of God and see what happens,” he said.

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