“A lot of folks might see our work as enabling,” said Santibáñez. “Some people will ask me, what percentage of people that go to your place actually want help? 100% want help! But where is the help? They’re needing housing, we get them a voucher, but then they can’t find a place that will take it.”
Santibáñez, who herself experienced homelessness as a teenager after both parents were deported, said the drivers of poverty are acute in San Antonio. “We still have a minimum wage of $7.25, average rent can be $1,300. 60% of clients on the street in the last citywide survey didn’t have health insurance, and therefore no access to mental health care.”
Many of her clients served our country honorably, but have been condemned to suffer on the streets. “We have four military bases around San Antonio. Since the 60s, there’s been an opioid crisis for generations because veterans came back dependent on pain medication for wounds and that drove opiate addiction in our city. So we’re trying to reduce the harm, all the generational and systemic violence that’s happened.”
Pastor Bethany Hull Somers, who started at Grace in 2020, helped catalyze the new use of space by partnering with Corazón. Although obviously charitable in nature, by receiving rent and co-applying to grants, hosting two nonprofit partners has benefited Grace more than it costs the church financially. Perhaps a lesson to be learned is that sharing according to Christ’s directions doesn’t just stave off spiritual death, but even financial death.
“If we can put ourselves out there and utilize the gifts we have to bring the Body of Jesus out into the world, we’re going to be blessed by that. That’s how the economy of grace works – you give, and you receive in abundance,” Hull Somers said.
“Often I wonder: If Jesus walked into this church, would He understand? Would He get it? Would He make the connection that this was something inspired by and in devotion to who He was and who He is?” Hull Somers asked.
“On Sunday mornings, I’m not sure how He would feel about Grace Lutheran,” the pastor continued. “But Monday through Saturday, I know he would understand. He would say, yes.”