On November 5, voters approved general obligation bonds of $14 million for a city operated 24-7 homeless shelter that will house upwards of 300.
According to a December 15 Albuquerque Journal Article, the City has revealed 5 potential locations for the centralized emergency shelter for the homeless:
The old Lovelace hospital on Gibson
University of New Mexico property near Lomas and Interstate 25,
Montessa Park south of the Sunport, and
An area near Second and Interstate 40
Continue to use the old West Side Jail 20 miles outside the city limits and build new facilities at that location.
City officials stress that nothing is set in stone and ask the public to provide their own suggestions for where the shelter should be locate.
24 HOUR, 7 DAY A WEEK HOMELESS SHELTER PROPOSAL
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week facility to temporarily shelter the homeless within the city as critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter would assist an estimated 300 homeless residents and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility would serve all populations, men, women, and families, and offer what Keller calls a “clearing house” function.
The city facility would have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources. According city officials, the new homeless shelter would replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side. The former jail is so remote that the city must bus homeless to the facility and back at a cost of $1 million annually.
According to Mayor Tim Keller, the new homeless shelter will provide first responders an alternative destination for the people they encounter on so-called “down-and-out” calls. Many “down and outs” today wind up in the emergency room even when they are not seriously injured or ill. According to city officials, only 110 of the 6,952 “down and out” people were taken by first responders to the Emergency Room in a recent one-year period had life-threatening conditions.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The single most controversial bonds on the November 5 ballot were the $14 million designated for a centralized, 24-hour, 7 day a week homeless shelter. It is controversial not because it’s needed but because established businesses, neighborhoods and many charitable homeless providers object to the location or the need for a centralized facility somewhere within the city. Opposition arguments range from negative impacts on well-settled business areas, residential areas, increases in crime, reducing neighborhood safety to cost justification. It’s the classic case of “not in my back yard” (NIMBY).
The city did not identify a location for the shelter until after voters approved the funding , no doubt for fear that the bonds may fail. It is very disappointing, but typical, that the city was not upfront on the locations being considered so that a more informed decision could have been made by the voting public. Notwithstanding locations have now been identified.
Albuquerque has between 1,500 and 2,000 chronic homeless, with approximately 80% suffering from mental illness. The city does provide extensive services to the homeless that include social services, mental or behavioral health care services, substance abuse treatment and prevention, winter shelter housing, rent assistance and affordable housing development, just to mention a few. But more needs to be done by the city to reduce the ever-increasing numbers.
The only way the city is going to be able to reduce the number of homeless in the city is to reach a viable consensus and implement an aggressive plan on how to reduce the number of homeless. This will mandate the city to work with virtually all the charitable providers, “pooling of resources” and work to get input from the public as to final location.
Let the debate now begin on location with a decision based on consensus.