I often want the public to know the good things and incredible work that is occurring through CAM and others serving our unsheltered street homeless. The issues are complicated and although it is heartbreaking, there is strategic work and a plethora of resources being provided in terms of food and clothing, outreach workers to help get people into programs, and places like Haven for Hope, Salvation Army, SAMMministries, CUB and our City of San Antonio all doing good work. There is a lot of attention and unified strategic work being done by many concerned for our street homeless friends. However, despite all of this, there are major gaps in service and no real system to address the indigent health care and mental health care crisis that impacts this population and this issue. One of the things that CAM tries to do is remain proximate to the issues and walk along those we serve. We purposely work hard to make sure our services are easy to access; so that we can build trust and relationships with those on the street.
Most recently, one of our long standing clients showed up last week in a wheel chair. He had been hit by a car and both ankles were broken. He had been released from the hospital to a rehab that now had put him back on the street with the idea that he should just go to a local shelter. He has never let us or asked us to help him enter a shelter, but he was begging for help now. He was very worried and scared; CAM was very scared for him too. The problem is that the existing, incredible shelters don’t have the capacity to care for someone this disabled who can’t care for themselves. On top of this, our friend ‘Daniel’ also has a pretty severe mental health diagnosis. We worked with another community nonprofit to get him into a hotel but realized within a day he couldn’t stay there with no help, no way to use the restroom, shower, get food, etc.
After almost 8 days of trying to advocate for Daniel, we were able to find him, by himself, under the highway, in a soiled wheel chair and take him to safety. It shouldn’t be this hard to do what is right for someone. CAM’s purpose is to remain proximate those in need; our clients vary but for the purpose of this story, I am speaking about unsheltered chronically homeless people. After exhausting every potential solution, we finally just started calling in favors and sounding the alarm. It worked and Valerie Salas, CAM’s Director of Homeless Services, and another outreach worker went out into the streets and found Daniel to bring him into Haven for Hope for one night to get him cleaned up (his wheel chair and clothes were very soiled and he had to be cut out of his clothing). They gave him a sponge bath and took him to get a covid vaccine. They also agreed to help us get him into a rehab facility. CAM and Haven for Hope will share the cost of this facility all in thanks to a local donor.
This story has a temporary happy ending but there is no system to help individuals like Daniel. This resolution could not be repeated at any scalable level. Our mental health system, our health care system, our Health and Human Services system have all failed the ‘Daniels’ of the world and there will be more. This picture speaks a thousand words and it is why we must keep working. If you want to know more, or if you want to understand this issue further, please consider engaging with CAM in some way, shape or form, or contact another provider that works with the homeless to get involved or support. We need you… Daniel needs you. And all of the Daniels of the world will need you too.