Downtown’s First Baptist Church then closed it’s MANNA kitchen, which had served daily meals to hundreds of homeless individuals daily for decades, conforming to the city’s request that it move under the Haven umbrella – many on the streets still lovingly recall “Miss Winnie’s.” Christian Assistance Ministry’s day center on Alamo closed after its contract with the city ended. SAMMinistries closed its 350-bed Commerce Street shelter and its smaller Dwyer Avenue shelter, moving onto the Haven campus to run its new $2.5 million dormitory program.
Perhaps one of the more controversial moves by the City was the shuttering of Living Stones Ministries, a homeless shelter that also ran a three-days-a-week mobile food van.
But as the former patchwork of services shift toward Haven, Boone claims the problem is growing, that his ministry, and others, are seeing an influx in homelessness – more young people without work, more families, more untreated mental illness. “What we’re seeing now is a significant increase in homelessness, that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer,” Boone said. The Center’s own numbers show Prospect’s is now holding as many as 700 people each night, roughly 300 more than originally anticipated, while dorms at Haven are maxed out at capacity. “There’s no question that we’re seeing more families, more young people that can’t find jobs, and I’d say 50 percent of the people, even if they’re mentally ill, are looking for work,” Boone said.
As with most shelters, rumors and discontent mark conversations on the street about Prospects Courtyard. Complaints range from the inconvenient (there’s never enough food) to the far more serious (allegations that drugs and violence plague the place at night).
James Campos, 30, has been living on and off the street since he was teenager, a situation he attributes to an abusive home, sexual assault as a child, and on-and-off drug and alcohol addiction. Campos travels with his 25-year-old boyfriend, who goes by the name Rachel Montiel, and both claim guards at Prospects harass them whenever they swing by for showers, a meal, or to use one of the Courtyard’s storage units – presumably because they’re gay. “Man, in my opinion, I want those guys shut down,” Campos said. “We’re always messed with. One guard straight up calls us faggots.”
More serious, though, is his and other’s contention that the courtyard takes on a prison-like atmosphere once the sun goes down, and that assaults are commonplace. “We don’t feel safe sleeping there. Not at all, man,” Campos said. Nearby, just after getting food in the line at Church Under the Bridge, a 34-year-old Navy vet who began living on the streets last month and wished to be identified only as “T.C.,” said one stay at Prospect’s made him fearful of ever going back. “They put bad people next to good people,” he said, shaking his head. “There’s fighting, there’s raping, there’s sex offenders there. I can’t stay there.”