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New Picture of SA Homelessness

By Johnny Shannon and Bill O'Neil  

The results are in--after spending much of the week surveying those living on the streets--we now have a clearer picture of San Antonio's homeless population.  

The survey puts the average age of those who are homeless at just under 45--and includes many euye opening details.  

"A huge percentage was tri-morbid--which means there was mental health (issues) substance abuse (issues) and a physical ailment of some form" said Norma Jean Huerta with SAMMinistries. As for who the homeless are, the results of the survey show 14-percent are military veterans--two-thirds of them honorably discharged from the service. One person surveyed reported being homeless for 36 years. The oldest was 90. 

"The majority are from San Antonio" Huerta said, adding "Maybe less than 9% are from out of state."  

Huerta said economics is the single-biggest driving factor behind the area's homelessness. She said the issue is still a critical one locally--though progress has been made. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said intervention programs have helped steer some away from a downward spiral that might otherwise begin with a trip to jail.  

"We have saved some one-thousand lives by getting them off of drugs, by helping them with their mental problems, and helping them to live productive lives" Wolff said. 

For Steven Burke--who ended up homeless in San Antonio after losing everything to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans--first hand experience told him there's one common denominator.  

"Homelessness does not discriminate. Homelessness is an equal opprtunity life changer" Burke said.  

Photos Courtesy:, 

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