Mr. Michael Dickson has been a resident of Albuquerque for over forty years. He is a former, two-term, City of Albuquerque Environmental Planning Commissioner. Michael Dickson is an artist and retired architect. He was the Director of Design, Principal Designer and Senior Principal at one of New Mexico’s largest and most prestigious architectural firms.
Recently, Mr. Dickson worked with the Greater Albuquerque Business Association, as a volunteer, to develop a conceptual masterplan for “Gabriel’s Village”, a not-for-profit residential homeless campus envisioned to serve homeless; families, veterans, men and women that have fallen on economic hard times and just need some help building their lives, finding the right job and learning new market-driven job skills, so they can reenter main stream society and become self-sufficient productive and contributing citizens.
Below is a guest column submitted by Michael Dickson to this blog for publication:
“The University of New Mexico’s proud motto, Lux Hominum Vita, means, Light the Life of Man. These well-chosen words are intended to encapsulate the beliefs and ideals of this heralded institution.
A recent article in the Journal seemed to suggest that representatives of UNM oppose the construction of a Homeless Shelter on the vacant northern end of the Campus, siting typical “Not In My Back Yard” NIMBY concerns related to campus safety. While reading about their disapproval, it is natural to feel a rush of disappointment while recalling, the motto, Lux Hominum Vita.
I didn’t go to UNM. However, I have; a daughter, son and daughter -in-law that did. My two grandsons will attend in the not-too-distant future. It is a fine institution!
I finished my degree during the early 1970’s. Remember “Flower Power, Counterculture and Making the World a Better Place?” My generation, which probably includes many professors at UNM, was idealistic and wanted a better world for everyone. I hope those principled values did not die in academia! Those ideals seem to still exist…at least in UNM’s motto.
University educators are always chiding students to quit rushing to judgement and to “Think out of the box!” Sadly, it is obvious that UNM representatives didn’t use an enlightened response to the homeless shelter. UNM played the NIMBY card too quickly, without really studying the many benefits of having the Homeless Shelter on campus. Hey, we all understand concerns about having 300 unwelcome new neighbors. At first glance, it seems like there is no upside to this City proposal. However, “think out of the box” for a moment. For most neighborhoods on the Mayor’s shortlist, the Homeless Shelter is a “bitter pill to swallow.”
However, UNM is supposed to be filled with (as the motto advertises), enlighten people, free-thinkers, liberal attitudes and champions for a better world for everyone.
Based on a recent Journal article, the City will pay The School of Architecture to study the homeless problem. It was a sizeable funding allocation for this study. All architects are trained to, “First, research, analyze and define the problem, before rushing to any solution”. I pray they will do a thorough job and ask individuals a multitude of questions such as; How did they get into this predicament? Where did they come from? Why did they come to ABQ? What do they want for their future? What would compel them to come to this new shelter for help?
Our homeless don’t just need a temporary place to eat and sleep. They need real long-term help. Many have psychiatric and/or substance-abuse problems. However, many are people that just fell on hard times and need a “hand up” with market-driven job training so, they can get good paying jobs, become self-sufficient home-owning, tax-paying productive citizens, once again.
The City and UNM need to be strategic partners. UNM wants a safer campus! Accordingly, ABQ needs to pony-up adequate funds to significantly help improve main campus lighting, security and provide added policing to prevent campus crimes before they happen.
Homeless services should not be free. The 300 residents should be required to participate in university research studies. If UNM wants to truly,” Light the Life of Man” it can become a real Center of Research. This can be a place where students can earn credits with real life hands-on education. This Homeless Shelter/CAMPUS can be a great place for students to learn to help their neighbors through volunteerism. The benefits of this facility located conveniently on-campus are obvious for the; Schools of Architecture, Pharmacy, Medicine, Population Health, Nursing and Law.
If done properly, ABQ and UNM could make this new on-campus Homeless Shelter the template and role model for our nation’s war on homelessness. Wouldn’t it be nice for us to be on the top of some “good” lists for a change? Let’s join the vanguard and be “part of the solution”?”
The opinions expressed in the foregoing guest opinion column written by Michael Dickson and are those of Mr. Dickson and do not necessarily reflect those of the www.petedinelli.com blog. Further, Mr. Dickson paid no consideration for its publication and has given his consent to publication. www.PeteDinelli.com has not been paid any compensation to publish the guest column.