Within one week after 3 major front page stories published in the Albuquerque Journal on the homeless crisis in Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller announced city initiatives to address the homeless crisis.
You can read all three Albuquerque Journal articles here:
Albuquerque’s estimated homeless is as low at 1,500 and as high as 5,000.
HIGHLIGHTS OF PLAN ANNOUNCED
The major highlights of the plan include:
1. Opening a 24-hour shelter for the homeless
2. Providing more housing vouchers
3. Creating a new Downtown Public Safety District
4. Providing more addiction and other support services
5. Transforming the nighttime winter shelter on the West Side into a year-round, 24-hour shelter for men, women and children.
Other initiatives in the plan include:
In June the Albuquerque Housing Authority announced a new partnership with the city and awarded the city more than $1 million through the HOME Program to increase tenant-based rental assistance vouchers to serve clients of the Albuquerque Heading Home program.
The City Council is also expanding affordable housing projects such as the newly opened Sterling Downtown Apartments.
The Family and Community Service Department had included in its budget $15 million for affordable housing contracts.
One major city initiative would be transforming the nighttime winter shelter on the West Side into a year-round, 24-hour shelter for men, women and children.
The winter shelter is the old West Side Jail where cubicles have been erected in common areas of the jail.
Another initiative being proposed is a triage center for health and addiction services.
Currently, the University of New Mexico Hospital emergency room is the only place where people can voluntarily go, or where police or paramedics can take them for treatment of addictions or alcoholism or an immediate mental health crisis.
Emergency medical treatment is extremely costly to provide.
There are smaller emergency treatment facilities available but there are prohibitions for admittance preventing treatment if a person is drunk or on drugs.
Mayor Keller is suggesting that the city could fund some of the capital costs through bond issues approved by voters.
The Downtown Public Safety District will have a substation and will be fully staffed with police officers and with Crisis Outreach and Support Teams (COAST) to address assist the homeless in the Downtown and Wells Park areas and who are in need of behavioral health and substance abuse services.
CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE SERVICES TO THE HOMELESS
The Family and Community Services Department is a key player in the City’s effort to end homelessness.
The Departments services include prevention, outreach, shelter and housing programs and supportive services.
The City of Albuquerque has at least 10 separate homeless service provider locations throughout the city.
The entire general fund budget for the Department of Family and Community Services is $39.9 million.
The $39.9 million is not just exclusive funding for services to the homeless.
The service offered by the Family and Community Services Department are directly provided by the city or by contract with nonprofit providers.
The services include social services, mental/behavioral health, homeless services, health care for the homeless, substance abuse treatment and prevention, multi-service centers, public housing, rent assistance, affordable housing development, and fair housing, just to mention a few.
The following homeless services are funded by the City of Albuquerque, HUD’s Continuum of Care grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, and other grants administered by the City of Albuquerque:
1. Emergency Shelters for short-term, immediate assistance for the homeless for men, women, families, emergency winter shelter and after-hours shelter.
2. Transitional Housing assistance designed to transition from homelessness to permanent housing.
3. Permanent Supportive Housing for homeless individuals dealing with chronic mental illness or substance abuse issues
4. Childcare services for homeless families
5. Employment Services and job placement for homeless persons
6. Eviction Prevention or rental assistance and case management to prevent eviction and homelessness
7. Health Care services for homeless individuals and families
8. Meal program providing for homeless individuals and families in need
9. Motel Vouchers or temporary vouchers for homeless individuals with immediate medical issues and families with children, where emergency shelters cannot accommodate them.
10. The Albuquerque Heading Home program initiative which moves the most medically fragile and chronically homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing. Since its inception in 2011 to January, 2017, it has placed 650 people into housing that assists with housing and providing jobs.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The initiatives being proposed are a major enhancement to the services already being provided by the city and will be in cooperation with Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico.
The approach is a realistic one to address the needs of the homeless.
The greatness of a city is reflected by the commitment it makes to help its homeless who suffer from mental illness.
We as a city have a moral obligation to make every effort and make available to the homeless services they desperately need.
Following are links to other articles on homeless initiatives: