City Council Unanimously Approves Up To $141,000 in Migrant Aid and $2.4 Million for Haven for Hope

Photos by Jonathan Guajardo - Photographer, The San Antonio Sentinel.

May 16, 2019 - Downtown San Antonio

Article by: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor, The San Antonio Sentinel

FY 2019 Total City Budget Breakdown

On the morning of May 16, members of the gallery filed into the Municipal Plaza Building next to San Fernando Cathedral for the City Council A-Session. While the bright sunlight outside scorched the city’s streets, a new debate was about to heat up within the City Council Chambers. It was at this meeting that the council would be addressing Item 4, which dealt with ordinances amending the Fiscal Year 2019 Total City Budget of $2.8 billion.

Justina Tate, Director of Management and Budget, broke down the numbers of the Fiscal Year 2019 total city budget and explained how the funds are divided up according to their purpose. The first part of the budget deals with an amount totaling $889 million for Restricted Funds, which are governed “by federal, state, or local laws and the revenues of these funds must be used for a specific purpose.” An example of a project benefitting from this type of fund would be the airport fund, where “all revenues generated at the airport must be used to support aviation related activities.”

The second part of the budget involves an amount totaling $690 million, and referred to as the Capital Budget, which provides funds for major capital projects “such as the 2017 bond program, as well as the airport projects.” The third and largest part of the fiscal year budget is the General Fund at $1.26 billion. “The General Fund provides for the city’s core services to include public safety, streets and infrastructure, parks and recreation, as well as animal care services,” described Tate. The General Fund exists due to four major services: CPS Payments totaling $363 Million, Property Taxes totaling $361.9 million, Sales Taxes totaling $295.3 million, and other resources such as EMS Transports, telecommunication and other user fees. These revenues go towards basic city services including $794.4 Million for Police & Fire, $130 Million for streets and infrastructure, $53 million for parks services, and $283.6 million for other departments such as Human Services, Animal Care, City Offices, and other such municipal departments.

Where the General Fund Comes From

What the General Fund of $1.26 Billion Goes Towards

Kenny Wilson, President & CEO of Haven for Hope, speaks at the A-Session. (Photo by  Jonathan Guajardo )

Kenny Wilson, President & CEO of Haven for Hope, speaks at the A-Session. (Photo by Jonathan Guajardo)

Worth noting in Tate’s presentation was $200,000 to be used from the General Fund to “complete a comprehensive assessment of community homeless services, identifying gaps, and develop, in consultation with stakeholders, a strategic plan to address those gaps.” Also notable was a request for $2.4 million for Haven for Hope to “complete renovations to their existing building adding 120 beds serving 500 homeless annually.”

After Tate’s presentation wrapped up, the meeting veered into a discussion of whether to allocate funds to Catholic Charities and the San Antonio Food Bank to serve the migrant population flooding through the city. “Since the end of March, there’s been a change at the Federal level on how they process individuals who are coming to this country seeking asylum,” said City Manager, Eric Walsh in his address to the council. “Many of you remember that at the end of March, Catholic Charities, Interfaith Welcome Coalition, the Food Bank, a number of downtown churches, Travis Park Church, and the city since the end of March have been engaged in a pretty special cooperative arrangement where we are providing services to individuals who are passing through San Antonio. They are individuals who are here legally and are engaged in the asylum seeking process outlined by the Federal Government.”

Walsh then outlined a recommendation that would provide $86,000 for Catholic Charities and the Food Bank to continue the work they’ve been doing to aid asylum seekers. These funds would be used to help them continue their current work providing services to legal asylum seekers making their way through the city and would follow suit with cities such as El Paso and McAllen who have approved similar funds to help nonprofits administer aid to migrant communities.

“The recommendation would be to allocate $86,000 primarily for Catholic Charities and the Food bank to continue the work they’ve been doing,” said City Manager, Eric Walsh. “That $86,000 would, in our estimation, provide those, Catholic Charities and the Food Bank, the ability to continue doing what they’re doing.” Walsh later went on to propose that the council would match donations given by private donors to these agencies. He stated that the goal would be to “set aside $55,000 that the city would match for every $2 raised by those agencies. So a maximum of $55,000.”

Laura Molinar from Sueños Sin Fronteras speaks in support of the additional funding for migrants. (Photo by  Jonathan Guajardo )

Laura Molinar from Sueños Sin Fronteras speaks in support of the additional funding for migrants. (Photo by Jonathan Guajardo)

After Walsh finished his statement, several community organizations stepped forward to speak in support of the proposed fund allocation for the two organizations. Among those speaking that day was Laura Molinar from Sueños Sin Fronteras, John Garland from the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, and Gavin Rogers from Travis Park Church.

In the council’s discussion, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales questioned why the Haven For Hope facility, which had just been brought up earlier in the meeting in regards to their request for $2.4 billion for the city, couldn’t be utilized to house the influx of migrants in San Antonio. Kenny Wilson, President and CEO of Haven For Hope, responded by addressing the residency requirement for those who stay at Haven and emphasized the fact that the facility is currently at capacity and doesn’t have the physical space to accept migrants. “I wish it were not the case, but we are full,” stated Wilson.

Shirley Gonzales speaks at the A-Session. (Photo by  Jonathan Guajardo )

Shirley Gonzales speaks at the A-Session. (Photo by Jonathan Guajardo)

While most of the council members voiced their support for the additional funds to be provided to the two organizations, Councilman Clayton Perry and Councilman Brockhouse both made their concerns known about the proposal. Perry emphasized that the city should’ve involved the federal government from the beginning in order to get more funds to house the migrant populations. “I think we should get an answer from the federal government or the state as to what they’re willing to do or not willing to do instead of burdening our taxpayers on a federal issue,” said Perry. He later said that he would support the allocation of the funds.

Councilman Brockhouse buoyed Councilman Perry’s statement, but still voiced his support for the additional funding. He based his decision on the idea that if the money wasn’t spent on housing these populations, they would spill over onto the city’s streets and increase the downtown homeless population. “There are consequences to either side of this decision,” stated Brockhouse.

How the $141,000 Will Be Divided

After being read aloud by District 1 Councilman Trevino, the motion went up for a vote and carried unanimously with the amendment allocating $141,000 from the Fiscal Year 2019 Contingency Fund “to the Department of Human Services to negotiate and execute the necessary agreements for the provision of food, shelter, janitorial, laundry, and other services provided by our nonprofit partners in support of asylum seekers traveling through our city.” The $141,000 was broken down with $56,000 going towards Catholic Charities, $30,000 going to the San Antonio Food Bank, and the remaining funds being allocated to the same two organizations on a matching grant based on “a community challenge to raise up to $2 for each city dollar invested.”