Poll: Bexar County Voters Want Safe Shelter for People Experiencing Homelessness

Dawn Milam

A new poll from The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, shows that a broad majority of San Antonio-area voters want the city to repurpose hotels and other buildings to provide both permanent and temporary housing solutions for people who lack shelter: 

  • As part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, 62 percent of likely voters—including 82 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 45 percent of Republicans—want the city to place people experiencing homelessness in unoccupied hotel rooms. 
  • And 70 percent of likely voters, including 83 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans, support the city purchasing under-utilized hotels or other unoccupied buildings to provide housing for individuals who need it. 

Polling and Findings

Certain cities have paid to put people experiencing homelessness into unoccupied hotel rooms as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. These cities say that such actions will keep people experiencing homelessness safe and help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Certain cities have purchased under-utilized hotels and other unoccupied buildings to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness. These cities believe that having people experiencing people homelessness housed together allows them to consolidate support services, save money, and creates better outcomes for both people experiencing homelessness and their communities. 

Key Context

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially harsh for unhoused individuals, both those who have lived without shelter for years and those who have recently been forced from their homes by economic hardship and lack of adequate support. Living without stable housing already posed significant health risks, and the threat of widespread coronavirus outbreaks combined with overwhelmed shelters and hospitals prompted some state and local officials to take action. 

One successful solution has been to purchase hotel rooms, both as a temporary measure to supplement shelters during the pandemic, and as a long-term solution to provide transitional housing and support services. California introduced a $835 billion grant program that allows public entities to “purchase and rehabilitate” unoccupied buildings and convert them into interim or long-term housing. The program funded the purchase of around 6,000 units and has been widely viewed as a success. Modeled after California’s initiative, Oregon’s Project Turnkey seeks to house up to 2,000 residents by purchasing up to 20 underused hotels. 

San Antonio is currently leasing two hotels to provide temporary shelter to people during the coronavirus pandemic, one in partnership with the Haven of Hope shelter to serve an additional 300 clients, and the other as a safe isolation facility for individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID cases. 

As tensions flared after the city cleared a tent camp in February, displacing dozens of people just before the winter storms, city leaders started discussing the possibility of purchasing hotels to provide transitional housing and services. San Antonio would not be the first Texas city to adopt this model for housing solutions: Austin has already approved the purchase of four hotels or motels to serve their unsheltered population. 

Polling Methodology 

From February 27 to March 6, 2021, The Appeal conducted a survey of 420 Bexar County adults web panel respondents in English and Spanish. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ± 4.75 percentage points. 

Poll: Bexar County Voters Want Safe Shelter for People Experiencing Homelessness