City Hall has deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week temporarily shelter for the homeless as critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter is projected to 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.
On February 27, the City of Albuquerque released a report and analysis announcing the top 3 preferred locations for the new 24/7 homeless shelter known as the “Gateway Center”. The 3 locations are:
1. University of New Mexico land next to the state laboratory, near Interstate 25 and Camino de Salud
2. Coronado Park at 3rd Street and Interstate 40
3. The former Lovelace hospital on Gibson
Now that the city is slowly “winnowing down” the site selection for the new 24-7 homeless shelter, a discussion of the extent and nature of the homelessness in the city and the state is order. Critics often assert that to try and end homelessness is futile and it has been problematic for decades going as far back as the Republican President Ronald Reagan. However, there are those who believe otherwise. The blog article is a discussion of the argument that the state of New Mexico, even as poor as it is, can end homelessness.
REAGAN’S SHAMEFUL LEGACY OF HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA
In the early 1970s in California, then Governor Ronald Reagan in the interest of reducing mental-health costs, Reagan closed numerous hospitals and facilities for treating the mentally ill and, because families either couldn’t care for them or families just didn’t exist anymore, the mentally ill were relegated to the streets of cities and towns to fend for themselves. In Reagan’s view, it saved money and reduced the size of state government. The result was that mental health facilities closed and the mentally ill wound up on the streets.
“In November 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan overwhelmingly defeated Jimmy Carter, who received less than 42% of the popular vote, for president. Republicans took control of the Senate (53 to 46), the first time they had dominated either chamber since 1954. Although the House remained under Democratic control (243 to 192), their margin was actually much slimmer, because many southern “boll weevil” Democrats voted with the Republicans.
One month prior to the election, President Carter had signed the Mental Health Systems Act, which had proposed to continue the federal community mental health centers program, although with some additional state involvement. Consistent with the report of the Carter Commission, the act also included a provision for federal grants “for projects for the prevention of mental illness and the promotion of positive mental health,” an indication of how little learning had taken place among the Carter Commission members and professionals at NIMH. With President Reagan and the Republicans taking over, the Mental Health Systems Act was discarded before the ink had dried and the CMHC funds were simply block granted to the states. The CMHC program had not only died but been buried as well. An autopsy could have listed the cause of death as naiveté complicated by grandiosity.”
Ronald Reagan when elected President believed he had mandate to reduce federal spending. In reality, he increased it through the escalating military budget, all the while slashing funds for domestic programs that assisted working class Americans, particularly the poor.
“The most dramatic cut in domestic spending during the Reagan years was for low-income housing subsidies. Reagan appointed a housing task force dominated by politically connected developers, landlords and bankers. In 1982 the task force released a report that called for “free and deregulated” markets as an alternative to government assistance – advice Reagan followed. In his first year in office Reagan halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 to about $17.5 billion. And for the next few years he sought to eliminate federal housing assistance to the poor altogether.
In the 1980s the proportion of the eligible poor who received federal housing subsidies declined. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units.
Another of Reagan’s enduring legacies is the steep increase in the number of homeless people, which by the late 1980s had swollen to 600,000 on any given night – and 1.2 million over the course of a year. Many were Vietnam veterans, children and laid-off workers.
In early 1984 on Good Morning America, Reagan defended himself against charges of callousness toward the poor in a classic blaming-the-victim statement saying that “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.”
Tenant groups, community development corporations and community organizations fought to limit the damage done by Reagan’s cutbacks. Some important victories were won when Clinton entered office—the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and stronger enforcement of the CRA. Funding for low-income housing, legal services, job training and other programs has never been restored to pre-Reagan levels, and the widening disparities between the rich and the rest persist.”
See also: “The great eliminator: How Ronald Reagan made homelessness permanent”:
POINT IN TIME SURVEY
Each year, the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT survey is conducted on only one night to determine how many people experience homelessness and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country in both urban and rural areas, and counting both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.
The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for funding and to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels.
On January 8, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report released the annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress containing the statistics for Albuquerque and New Mexico.
The link to the report is here:
NATIONAL “POINT IN TIME” HOMELESS COUNT
The PIT survey found that an estimated 567,715 people nationwide, both sheltered and unsheltered, were identified as homeless which is a 2.7% increase over 2018. Overall homelessness declined in 29 states and the District of Columbia, but increased in 21 states.
Nationwide, 396,045 people experienced homelessness as individuals, meaning they did not have children with them. Individuals made up 70% of the total homeless population. Half of those who experienced homelessness as individuals were staying in sheltered locations.
NEW MEXICO “POINT IN TIME” HOMELESS COUNT
According to the PIT, New Mexico had the nation’s largest percentage increase in homelessness from 2018 to 2019 in the nation with an increase of 27%. New Mexico also had a 57.6% increase in chronic homelessness last year, also the highest in the nation. The percentage increase in Albuquerque’s homeless population alone rose by 15%. In New Mexico there were 2,464 homeless people in 2019 and of that total, 1,283 persons, or about 52%, were chronically homeless.
ALBUQUERQUE “POINT IN TIME” HOMELESS COUNT
The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness was contracted by the City of Albuquerque to conduct the annual PIT count. The Coalition puts the number of homeless people in Albuquerque at 1,524 sheltered and unsheltered individuals. This 1,524 is 206 more than were counted in 2017 when 1,318 homeless people were counted in the city limits.
CATEGORIES OF HOMELESS
The New Mexico Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) is a federally mandated system operated by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness in cooperation with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority and the City of Albuquerque. The follow statistics reflect those people who sought help for their homelessness from a government funded agency participating in HMIS during calendar year 2018.
According to the New Mexico Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), homeless people have varying needs based on their age and abilities. HMIS sub-divides age into three categories based on level of support required and length of time the individuals or families remain homeless. The 3 age categories are as follow:
1. Those who exit homelessness quickly, usually within 30 days, mostly because of their own efforts
2. Those who exit homelessness needing longer term assistance, and
3. Those who remain homeless despite seeking assistance.
THE UNDER 18 AGE GROUP
According to HMIS, in calendar year 2018 “there were 2,585 people under the age of 18 who were homeless. Of this group 584 were separated from their parents or guardians. The other 2,001 people were accompanied by a parent or guardian who was also homeless. During the year 340, of these children were able to resolve their homelessness within 30 days and 607 were able to exit to permanent housing after a longer period of stay. 1,016 of these children remained in the housing or shelter at the end of the year. 622 children left a shelter or housing program but remained homeless. Of the 622 who remained homeless, we estimate that 124 of them were separated from their parents or guardians.”
(Quoting Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico Hank Hughes, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness)
YOUTH AGES 18-24
According to HMIS, in calendar year 2018 “a total of 981 people aged 18 to 24 were homeless in 2018. 221 of them were part of a family and 100 of them were the head of their household. 760 were unaccompanied. 54 left for permanent housing in 30 days or less and 124 were able to secure permanent housing after a longer stay. 425 remained in the shelter or housing program at the end of the year. 378 left a shelter or housing program and remained homeless.”
(Quoting Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico Hank Hughes, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness)
ADULTS AGES 25 & OVER
According to HMIS, in calendar year 2018, “9,021 people aged 25 and up were homeless in 2018. Of these, 1,126 were in families and 7,647 were unaccompanied, while for 248 no household type was reported. 503 left for permanent housing within 30 days of entry into a program and 1,163 secured permanent housing after a longer stay. 4,578 remained in a shelter or housing program at the end of 2018. 2,777 left a shelter or housing program and remained homeless and about 2305 of them were unaccompanied and 472 were part of families.
Overall a total of 897 people exited quickly with little help from the services system. A total of 1,894 were able to exit homelessness with longer term help and 3,777 people remained homeless after seeking assistance. Thus, while the current system is helping many people exit homelessness, most people experiencing homelessness are not receiving enough help or the right help.”
(Quoting Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico Hank Hughes, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness)
INTERVENTIONS TO HELP PEOPLE EXIT FROM HOMELESSNESS
HMIS reports that there are two interventions that are considered best practices for helping people exit from homelessness: rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing.
“Rapid housing is the best practice for families and individuals who can reasonably be expected to obtain employment and support themselves and their families within two years. Rapid rehousing involves providing rental assistance to help the homeless household move into an apartment, and then provide rental assistance that decreases over time as the household income increases until the assistance is no longer needed. Supportive services are provided to help the family set goals and obtain other resources they may need such as child care and medical care.”
(Quoting Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico Hank Hughes, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, page 3, 4) )
PERMANENT SUPPORTIVE HOUSING
“Permanent supportive housing is the best practice for families and individuals where the head of the household is disabled and may never be able to support the household. Permanent supportive housing involves providing rental assistance and support services for as long as they are needed. Clients of permanent supportive housing are expected to pay 30% of their income for rent, with the program paying the difference.
Intensive supportive services are offered to assist clients in obtaining health care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, job training, and other assistance as needed. Permanent supportive housing may be provided in scattered site privately owned apartments or in site based apartments owned by the permanent supportive housing program. Clients of permanent supportive housing often move on to less costly forms of assistance such as regular public housing after they have achieved a good level of stability.”
(Quoting “Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico Hank Hughes, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness” page 3, 4.)
SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN: STATE COULD AFFORD TO END HOMELESSNESS
In addition to operating a Rapid Housing and Permanent supportive housing program, there is a need to build new permanent supportive housing. On January 16, the Santa Fe New Mexican published a report written by reporter Olivia Harlow on an in-depth analysis on how much it would cost the State of New Mexico to house the homeless. The analysis report was compiled by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. Below is the article in full with a link to the Santa Fe New Mexican Report:
HEADLINE: State could afford to end homelessness
BY Olivia Harlow
Jan 16, 2020
“A new, in-depth analysis on how much it would cost the state government to house those without a home suggests eradicating homelessness across New Mexico could be feasible in the next five years.
The report, compiled by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, examines data from several statewide organizations and estimates it would cost the state about $212 million over five years to expand existing programs and $48 million in capital outlay for additional housing units to get more than 6,500 people off the streets and ensure others don’t end up there in the future.
THE LINK TO NEW MEXICO COALITION TO END HOMELESSNESS IS HERE:
The ultimate goal is to end homelessness in New Mexico — or, more accurately, “to create a system in which homelessness is rare and nonrecurring,” said the coalition’s executive director, Hank Hughes.
“It’s doable, it’s feasible and it’s important,” said Nicole Martinez, executive director of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, a Las Cruces-based nonprofit that offers housing programs, case management and educational services.
“This isn’t a pipe dream,” she added. “Homelessness isn’t something that’s going to go away on its own. It’s going to require these types of solutions.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the governor was unavailable Thursday to comment on the coalition’s proposal but included in her proposed spending plan funding for programs that assist the homeless community.
The governor’s budget includes $4 million for a permanent, supportive housing program that would provide vouchers for “rental assistance and support services for homeless adults diagnosed with serious mental illness, functionally impaired and very low income,” Judy Gibbs Robinson said in an email.
The governor’s spending plan also includes $2.4 million for programs that address youth homelessness, Robinson said.
The coalition’s comprehensive report, Analysis of Resources Needed to House Everyone in New Mexico, suggests two approaches to address homelessness: rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing.
Rapid rehousing is a method that works best for people who eventually can obtain employment and support themselves and their families, Hughes said. Permanent supportive housing is a strategy better suited for people with disabilities who might never be able to maintain a household on their own and require lifelong financial assistance.
According to the new report, the total number of New Mexicans experiencing homelessness ranges between 15,000 and 20,000 people each year.
In 2018, more than 12,500 people in precarious living situations sought services from agencies that supply data to the New Mexico Homeless Management Information System, a project of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. But this number doesn’t include the thousands of people each year who receive help from privately funded agencies that don’t share data and those who do not seek help at all, Hughes said.
The coalition’s report says more than 6,500 individuals per year do not get the help they need to get off the streets. The money to provide them with housing should come from the state, Hughes said.
“The state does not really do much in terms of housing and homelessness right now,” he said, noting its current funding for programs that aid the homeless is about $2 million.
Hughes said he hopes the state will provide an additional $6 million this year to address homelessness and will arrive “at a peak period” in the report’s five-year plan in which it will provide $60 million a year.
The report proposes the state provide $30.65 million in the first full year of the plan, $61.3 million per year in the following two years, $40.9 million in the fourth year and $20.45 million in the fifth year.
Additionally, it recommends the state make a one-time investment of $48 million for construction of permanent supportive housing for 300 people “with such severe substance abuse and mental health issues that they would pretty much need constant care,” Hughes said.
The total cost for the housing project would be around $72 million, Hughes said, but he expects $25 million of the cost to come from the National Housing Trust Fund, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program and other sources.
Hughes envisions around-the-clock case management at the apartments and medical assistance.
The $260 million total over five years is “a significant increase” in the state’s investments in addressing homelessness, he said.
But he and other advocates said the cost would be partially offset by decreased spending on emergency services for people in the homeless community.
A recent study by the University of New Mexico, cited in the coalition’s analysis, followed 95 chronically homeless people in Albuquerque and concluded that after 12 months in housing, the costs for emergency rooms, medical outpatient procedures, emergency shelters and jail time for the group decreased by 31 percent — or $12,832 per person. The savings in one year was more than $1 million, the study said.
“What happens is that as people are homeless, those who fell on hard times, they start to use more and more emergency services to get their needs met,” Hughes said. “… If you house those people, there’s a net savings to the overall system.”
Martinez agreed, noting that a model known as Housing First, which focuses on immediately finding homes for those living on the streets, is critical to solving problems that stem from homelessness.
“A lot of times, people refer to housing as being health care,” she said. “… It helps improve people’s quality of life, giving them something that’s stable and secure. It’s a good starting point to helping improve their well-being and health care.”
But the report says agencies would have to double their current efforts for permanent supportive housing and triple their efforts for rapid rehousing to fully address homelessness across the state.
“It will be a challenge,” Martinez said, “but we are used to challenges. And we need to start working on them now.”
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
President Ronald Reagan is long gone, but his dark shameful treatment of the mentally that resulted in homelessness in American is something we all continue to deal with on national and local levels. What is so damn pathetic, the Party of Reagan is now the Party of Trump, and its not likely even Reagan would fit into the Republican Party. Government, which Reagan loathed, still remains the single most viable approach to solving America’s homelessness.
The City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico have a moral obligation to assist the homeless, especially those who suffer from chronic mental illness. More needs to be done by the city, county and state to reduce the ever-increasing numbers of homeless.
The only way to reduce the number of homeless is to reach a viable consensus and implement an aggressive plan on how to reduce the number of homeless. It will mandate the city, county and the state to work with virtually all the charitable providers, “pooling of resources” and work to get arrive at an action plan.
The report and analysis compiled by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness provides a viable road map to achieve the ultimate goal to end homelessness in New Mexico within 5 years. What is needed is the political will and commitment by our elected officials.
On March 6, the Albuquerque Journal publish the following editorial:
Editorial: Shelter needs city, county, providers, UNM on same page
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Friday, March 6th, 2020 at 12:02am
“With thousands of people sleeping on our streets and a minimum of 14 million taxpayer dollars on the line, it is essential the leadership of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico and various service providers work together to make a 24/7 low-barrier homeless shelter a reality.
Because given the myriad causes of homelessness – including behavioral health issues and substance abuse – one entity does not have the expertise or funding to do it alone.
Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has consistently favored a single 300-bed site, and city leaders say there have been regular meetings and frequent communication with county leaders and officials about the planned Gateway Center. The county manager and two commissioners are advocating for multiple smaller sites for specific homeless populations, and maintain the city has ignored their input.
Last week, the mayor held a news conference on a vacant strip of land owned by UNM near Interstate 25 and Lomas, the city’s preferred site for the shelter. Keller says the site has many advantages – it’s vacant, making it easier and less expensive to build on, especially if UNM donates it; it’s near medical and behavioral health services and local interstates, making services and transportation more accessible; and it’s not as close to neighborhoods as other options, limiting residential concerns.
UNM and county leaders were not in attendance. UNM, which has yet to announce whether it will donate the land, has faced pushback from many concerned about student safety on campus. The university is awaiting results from a just-completed survey of university faculty, students and others about the site, which is about half a mile from main campus.
But a decision – either that UNM has rejected the idea or that it is willing to explore the site as long as security concerns can be addressed – is needed soon.
That’s because everything is on hold until then. The old Lovelace Hospital on Gibson and Coronado Park, at Third and I-40, are the other finalists, but nothing is moving forward pending UNM’s decision.
(Regardless of the shelter’s eventual site, a plan to reclaim Coronado is essential. Its current condition as a campsite for the addicted and the destitute is unacceptable.)
Also needed is a decision on the location of the planned crisis triage center/psychiatric hospital UNM is partnering with the county on. The triage center is meant to help stabilize those in crisis who might otherwise end up in jail or an emergency room. It makes sense to have the facilities in close proximity if not co-located, as many clients will need the services of both.
But most importantly, cooperation among the various entities is crucial if the shelter – one that will take all comers regardless of gender, age, sobriety, pets, belongings and religious faith or lack thereof – is to meet its projected timeline of a 2021 groundbreaking and 2022 opening.
The city currently runs the 450-bed emergency shelter west of town, obtained $14 million from city taxpayers for a new 24/7 shelter and offers a housing voucher program. The county has multiple transitional housing projects, works closely with service providers and gets around $20 million annually from its behavioral health tax. University of New Mexico Hospital treats many in the homeless population in its emergency room and has psychiatric expertise.
County Manager Julie Morgas Baca and Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Jim Collie told the Journal last week that a phased-in approach that starts in the 75-bed range and potentially grows to other locations makes more sense, that there aren’t the service providers to staff a 300-bed facility and that there is no next-step strategy to get folks out of the shelter.
But the city points out it is already running the 450-bed shelter and insists there’s enough expertise in these stakeholders to come up with solutions.
Perhaps a summit where all of stakeholders are in the same room at the same time could move the needle.
The voters have spoken; the homeless shelter needs to be built ASAP. Taxpayers have little interest in bureaucratic squabbles and big interest in helping their fellow men, women and children and cleaning up our streets.”
For a related blog article see: