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A new program to combat homelessness in Corpus Christi

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Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 23:18:28-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It's a persistent problem plaguing the city of Corpus Christi since as long as most can remember...homelessness.

So what is being done to help the countless men, women, and children who call the streets home?

We went searching to see if the city’s newest initiative is working.

“It's hard and I'm struggling,” Kimberly Davault told me recently as she and her boyfriend walked around the city. A hard life, she says, since she’s been living on the streets of Corpus Christi since 2014.

But why?

“I have to do what I have to do,” she explains

Having to do what she has to do includes leaving her 7-year-old son with his grandmother hundreds of miles away.

"It breaks my heart to see him growing up without me there,” Davault says.

One person who has been there for her is her boyfriend, Adam Gutierrez. He’s also homeless.

"You never know what's going to happen to you,” Gutierrez says describing their life on the street.

Never knowing what could happen next.

"The way we are living is that we have a little hiding spot where nobody knows where we're at,” Gutierrez says explaining the spot they’ve found where they feel safe to sleep at night.

It may be a hiding spot in the middle of nowhere but it’s a hiding spot Davault and Gutierrez call home.

Their home is drastically unlike the tent city that sprang up on the city's north side recently. That is, until drugs, gangs, and violence forced officials to shut it down. But by shutting down the tent city, didn’t city officials merely relocate the people living there?

Corpus Christi city manager Peter Zanoni tells us that the city is spending the more than $2 million dollars in funds received from the federal government to help the homeless, particularly in social distancing. The city is also working with area non-profits to create a daytime, drop-in shelter.

Then in April, Zanoni created a first-of-its-kind program in Corpus Christi, the Neighborhood Services Department. It includes homeless services and workforce solutions. So far, Zanoni says, it's made a dent in the problem.

"We're responding to a need and that's why we're doing this,” said Tracey Cantu, interim director of neighborhood services of Corpus Christi.

In July, the department worked with the Mother Teresa Shelter in hopes of providing resources for the homeless.

"Folks in need that often need services but they're unaware or the services, haven't reached them where they're at, where they're staying,” said Cantu, explaining how the program works.

With nearly two dozen providers on hand, the resources included veterans services, healthcare services like dentists and doctors, rehabilitation programs, as well as transitional services.

The event took place in a neighborhood the homeless know all too well, with Cantu calling it an initial success. A little more than 30 people showed up, she says, to get the information they needed to try and get off the streets.

"If they're looking for rehabiliation services, if they're looking for housing, if they're looking to change their situation or improve their situation, we want to make sure they are aware of what's available to them,” Cantu said.

As for Gutierrez, he knows what's available. He and Davault often find themselves at Mother Teresa's and the Station Church.

"I'm very grateful,” Gutierrez says about the services he can find. “I'm grateful to be alive and I'm grateful for these people out here who help us.”

He believes the city is doing what it can but at the same time believes more can be done.

So what can be done?

"Try to get us training, work training, especially for a lot of us who haven't worked in years,”Gutierrez said.

But what about the age old question whether the homeless chose to live on the streets or did life just deal them a bad hand?

When Davault was asked if she wanted to get off the streets, she said, “Yes, I do. Eventually I do.”

The trouble is, for both Davault and Gutierrez, sometimes words just get in the way.

When asked about reaching out for help, Davault said, “It's hard because every time I explain my situation I get my words all twisted up.”

Gutierrez agrees. When asked if he’d like to get help, he said, "I would but I won't ask." Going on to say, "I don't like to ask people for help. I don't.”

As for Kimberly’s 7-year-old son now living with his grandmother? Davault tries to stay optimistic.

"Down deep in my heart I know that my son will be there with me,” she says.

It’s a mother's love wherever she may be living.

Gutierrez and Davault walking the streets of Corpus Christi