By Dayri Vargas-Osorio
(SEGUIN)- As the city of Seguin continues to develop plans to help people living under the poverty line with new job opportunities and programs, for some citizens, the struggle continues.
With the opening of big companies and small businesses in the city, Seguin’s economic development department not only sees an increase in working opportunities but the chance to make a difference for the population that needs it.
According to statistics provided by the American Community Survey, the population in Seguin is 25,498 as of 2015. More than 5,000 people, or 22.5 percent of Seguin’s population, live under the poverty level.
Although these numbers represent a significant portion of Seguin’s population, the city works with different departments and authorities to assure a positive impact in the numbers by providing help and services to the people afflicted living under this situation.
In efforts to decrease these numbers, the city of Seguin works along with companies and small businesses that operate in the area to give opportunities to citizens that fill the working profile these employers need.
The director of economic development for the city of Seguin, John Schneuker, is the person in charge of making plans to secure better job opportunities for people. He also ensures that people will enter a fair job environment that will open new opportunities for them, something that in the long run will benefit the city and its population.
“I look at if they are meeting the average wage for the specific industry that the business is in,” said Schneuker as he explained his job in this department. “We are trying to make sure we’re providing quality jobs that have career pathways and that people filling these jobs can make the means for providing for their family.”
Schneuker talked about the importance of keeping an eye on statistics often as it is important for him and the city to keep working on plans to reduce the number of people living in economic distress in Seguin and the Guadalupe County area.
“We are creating those jobs that can bring higher wages to the people, and working with different business too and trying to be an advocate for higher wages,” Schneuker said.
In addition to the efforts being made for economic development, many other programs like Connect Seguin and public housing are available to help low income people living in Seguin.
Connect Seguin is a program that works to offer transportation to residents that don’t have access to a vehicle. The routes are change often, depending on events which may be of interest to people. The bus routes move citizens daily to large retailers, downtown, doctor’s offices and hospitals, job fairs and public service offices.
“We try to provide routes for people that work and need to get to a place,” said Scheneuker. “Sometimes, people don’t have the means to get to a job fair but they do want to work, so we try to provide the service for everybody.”
Alamo Regional Transit is in charge of providing service to citizens in Guadalupe County. According to the Alamo Area Council of Government’s website, the Connect Seguin route “provides reliable, quality transportation” to different destinations in the city.
One of the most important services that assists people living below the poverty line is the Seguin Housing Authority. The city’s housing authority is at the service of the people that need help with housing payments. This service has been active since its inauguration on June 9, 1996.
The Seguin Housing Authority provides all the information needed and the list of the items required from the applicant when applying for public housing. Items like birth certificates of all household members, social security cards and proof of current bank statements and paycheck stubs are among the required documents.
When the applicant for housing assistance submits the requested information, the Seguin Housing Authority runs a criminal background check by the date of the application.
Once the check is complete, the process begins.
“Applicants just apply and they are on a waiting list, so we just go down the waiting list,” said Yvette Moreno, occupancy specialist of the Seguin Housing Authority. “They do need to have at least some kind of income, they can’t just move in without any income.”
Although the waiting list is long, the housing authority does make exceptions in necessary cases.
“There are no emergency pickups, unless the person or applicant is a Red Cross victim,” Moreno said.
The Seguin Housing Authority director, Brenda Edwards, was contacted for comment, but did not respond.
These and many other services in Seguin are at the disposal of its citizens, especially the ones that need it the most. For residents like Edith Cervantes, the city needs to do more and better work when it comes to informing people about services. Some requesting assistance want to see better treatment for those seeking assistance.
“In the areas where most of poor people live, I haven’t see any changes made by the city,” said Cervantes, resident of Seguin since 1999. “They have invested in many public building like the hospital and schools, new parks had been built and new companies and businesses had been open, but other than that, no real help for the poor areas in the city.”
Cervantes, a 33-year-old mother of five children, has been living in Seguin for 18 years and as she recalls memories of the Seguin when she first arrived, many good changes and beautification projects have been done in the city, and these projects have had a positive impact in the city’s earnings and recognition, especially because of the historical background and tourism.
“I think it’s good what the government is doing to make the city look better, more presentable,” Cervantes added. “But for the people living inside, we know how it looks and what’s going on.”
For Cervantes, there are areas where the city has made few improvements for its citizens.
“The government needs to work in all the city as one equal, not only in the areas where most of the people visit and see. The infrastructure job needs to be done everywhere.” said Cervantes.
As mentioned before many services are at the disposition of people living under the line of poverty to help them, but according to Cervantes, more needs to be done by the city.
“I have seen old homeless people, these people can’t work or afford a shelter, and the issue is that there is no homeless shelter for these people, or a program that provides for them,” Cervantes said. “I see more help from churches and other organizations around these people than what the city does to help them.”
In addition to these issues, Cervantes believes that many of the people that seek help from these public programs have a lack of trust in the government. She says that some of the problem rests in the way the city workers in the departments don’t treat those seeking assistance very well.
“The service in these institutions is not the best, to be honest. The waiting in line or in the office, the attitude these people have when you go in asking for help, all those details make these people not seek help,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes recalled a time she assisted a man in the housing authority department. “They are supposed to work for these people, these people go in with their struggles hoping to find a helping hand, but they receive bad attitude and lack of professionalism instead.”
In the end, as the city keeps working to improve the lives of its citizens with new employment opportunities, the residents of Seguin keep hoping to see a real change citywide.
Visual component of this story can be found at Steller in this link- https://steller.co/s/6v4wRPV2LVn