During his campaign for Mayor and since taking office on December 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller 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.
The city facility would have on-site case managers that will guide residents toward addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources. According city officials, the new homeless shelter will replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side.
The goal is for the new homeless shelter to 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, in a recent one-year period, only 110 of 6,952 “down and out” people were taken by first responders to the Emergency Room with life-threatening conditions.
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. The actual cost will be $30 million and the City asked the 2020 New Mexico Legislature for the additional $14 million to complete phase two of the project, but the funding request failed.
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, in order of preference, were listed as follows:
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
On Friday, February 28, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference with local church leaders at the vacant UNM land site and announced his support for building the 300 person “Gateway Project” for the homeless on the UNM property. Confidential UNM sources have confirmed that UNM President Garrett Stokes and a few regents were not at all happy with Keller using a press conference to pressure the university to agree to the putting the shelter on the UNM property. Keller holding the press conference with church leaders and using words such as “if the UNM community is not interested in sharing it [with the community] then this will be off the table” was viewed as him trying to shame and force UNM’s hand and force them to agree to something they do not want to agree to and who have extreme reservations about the project.
On March 12, it was announced that the University of New Mexico was no longer interested in offering the empty lot they own off the I-25 Frontage Road for consideration as the possible site for Albuquerque’s new Gateway Center.
UNM President Garnett Stokes in a statement announcing the decision had this to say:
“In listening to the University community, it is clear that many people support UNM being a part of tackling the issue of homelessness and serving the various vulnerable populations in our City. Regarding the proposed use of UNM land, there was not a single variable that led to this decision. Ultimately, our concerns about enrollment and future needs of our health system had to be considered in our determination of whether the UNM site was appropriate for the City’s plans.”
The decision by UNM left Coronado Park and the former Lovelace Hospital complex as the two finalists for the new shelter.
ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMNS
On Monday, April 13, 2020, and Wednesday, April 15 the Albuquerque Journal published two separate guest editorial columns. The April 13 column was written by Connie Vigil, a long time resident of Wells Park and founder of the Greater Albuquerque Small Business Alliance (GABA) who strongly opposes the selection of the Coronado Park site. The April 15 column was written by Kristin Greene representing the Albuquerque Elder Homestead Neighborhood and who strongly opposes the selection of the Lovelace Hospital Complex for the shelter.
Below is background information on each site followed each by the Journal Guest column and the link to the columns:
BACKGROUND ON CORONADO PARK
Opposition to the Coronado Park as the site for the new shelter is very strong. Wells Park Neighborhood association adamantly opposes to the city developing another major project geared toward homeless people in the area. The Wells Park Neighborhood Association has said residents’ pleas for help from the city addressing the associated issues have gone largely unanswered by the city. The Wells park neighborhood association has voted to oppose placing the shelter anywhere in the city unless there are matching funds deployed to the selected location to help with infrastructure and to mitigate any potential problems.
According to a report released by the City on February 27, building the new shelter at Coronado would cost a total of $12.7 million. The city would need to buy abutting land, which may include office space across from the park, to have enough space. The overwhelming number of those who completed an on line city survey chose the Interstate 40 and 2nd street location as the best area for the shelter with upwards of 31% of the respondents saying the area was the best location. The area is in the same general vicinity as Coronado Park, a city park that has attracted for years many homeless people and those that feed the homeless. The city uses the park as a pickup location for those needing rides to the West Side shelter.
Marit Tully, the president of the Near North Valley Neighborhood Association has said that Coronado Park has seen major problem over the years due to the park’s existing concentration of people who are homeless.. Tully said area residents have for years raised concerns with the city, but the city has made little improvement. According to Telly, her neighborhood association could not support any shelter site unless the city invests just as much in the chosen neighborhood.
CORONADO PARK GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN
ABQ Journal Headline: Mayor Wrong To Force Shelter On Neighborhood
BY CONNIE VIGIL / GREATER ALBUQUERQUE BUSINESS ALLIANCE, THIRD-GENERATION WELLS PARK RESIDENT
Monday, April 13th, 2020 at 12:02am
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in the Journal guest column by Connie Vigil are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com)
“Mayor Tim Keller has no clue what to do with the homeless, a population that has grown exponentially during his brief time as mayor due to his liberal policies without true solutions.
So now they are kept overnight at the West Side jail with some in quarantine and sick. I wonder how they take showers, are fed, are tested and monitored for coronavirus? Still, there are about a thousand living on sidewalks, under bridges, in Coronado Park, waiting to catch a contaminated bus or (be) dropped off at a dollar store or liquor store to get “supplies” and food not available at the shelter.
It seems (the Journal) and (Family & Community Services Director) Carol Pierce want to give Keller the medal of honor for “moving forward” on a shelter in light of this devastating virus! (He deserves) just the opposite. He is a bully politician who puts the lives of the residents, businesses and even the homeless as his last priority.
The homeless are chronically sick and do not have good health practices. They do everything opposite virus guidelines. Meanwhile they are kept in tight quarters (and) transported in crowded buses to and from Coronado Park. They are out and about in groups as if there were no virus, no social spacing needed. As with the University of New Mexico (proposed shelter site), the city did not hold one single meeting with the neighborhoods most affected to ask their permission, but took the easy way out of creating a NIMBY survey of the city.
Can one single neighborhood actually claim it thinks it is a good idea to place 400 people in one building for 24 hours at a cost of $14 million and claim this is the solution? The answer is a resounding “No!”
Keller cannot and should not be considered a hero, just a bully politician who does not think of the welfare of the homeless, residents or businesses but only how he can appease enough folks to get re-elected.
Do we need a shelter in an area already blighted, full of liquor stores and drug dealers? Or a comprehensive and collaborative plan?
Keller wants to destroy a historic city park, skate park for kids, dog park and close Third Street to Downtown as his only solution. This story truly is the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” He cannot see his own absurdity. It’s time he woke up and got dressed. We will tell him that building a mega shelter with half the money he said he needed, in a city park without truly addressing the real issues of drug addiction and mental health, job rehabilitation and transitional housing for those without behavioral issues is not the real solution.
If he pushes the shelter during a time when people watch their businesses fail, employees struggle, people get sick and die while this city is literally falling apart (under a) lack of leadership, he will not be known as a hero but one of the worst mayors this city has ever had.
We urge him to take the time to allow residential treatment to be built, to collaborate with the county, state and federal government, on the Gabriel’s Village site on South Second next to the Animal Resource Center, which he has hidden from the public. Build a comprehensive site, not just an overnight shelter no one will go to. Let’s truly help those in need while still supporting the businesses and neighborhoods already hurt by our homeless crisis.
Stop social discrimination of a poor, historic neighborhood and businesses that have for so many years called Wells Park home. They count, too – not just those in wealthy neighborhoods, or those who have money, power and clout to deny a shelter while pretending to care about the homeless.
How about let’s be One Albuquerque by helping the homeless while respecting the dignity and honor of residents and businesses who pay taxes and support this city with their hard work and paychecks – you know. mayor, the ones who pay your salary?”
The link to the Connie Vigil guest editorial column can be found here:
BACKGROUND ON LOVELACE HOSPITAL COMPLEX ON GIBSON
According to the February 27 city report and analysis, the Lovelace Hospital Complex would be $14 million in acquisition and renovation costs. Although the former Lovelace hospital on Gibson was not listed in the on line survey, 42 people who took the survey wrote it in as an option. It was not listed on the survey because the city did not have permission from the building’s owners to list it. It was in 2007 Lovelace Medical Center closed down. It was later purchased by local private investors. The investors who purchased the former Lovelace Hospital on Gibson were Jimmy Daskalos and Nick Kapnison. Nick Kapnison is one of the owners of “Nick and Jimmy’s” Restaurant, Mikinos Creek Restaurant and El Patron Mexican Restaurant.
The Loveless facility is a 529,000-square-foot building and upwards of 50% of it is said to be vacant. According to one news report, an estimated $10 million in upgrades in the Lovelace Hospital Complex, including remodeling for specific tenants, improving common areas and the parking lot and installing a 540-ton cooling unit out back were made. Parts of the building date back to 1950 and what was then known as the Lovelace Clinic, and as a result the need for any asbestos remediation is subject to speculation and has not been reported on by the news media.
The Lovelace Hospital complex has been identified as a location to house corona virus patients with the City and State with the city working with the US Core of Engineer’s to take over the complex and prepare it for corona virus patients.
LOVELACE HOSPITAL COMPLEX GUEST EDITORIAL COLUMN
ABQ Journal Headline: Short-Changed District 6 Doesn’t Deserve Shelter
BY Kristin Greene / Albuquerque Elder Homestead neighborhood
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in the Journal guest column by Kristin Greene are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com)
“As I read yet another editorial in favor of placing the Gateway Shelter at the Lovelace Gibson location, I can’t help but think how wonderful it must be to know such a project will never wind up in your own area, that you can declare another district as deserving of one more service to further blight it.
District Six has suffered over 30 years of being underserved, overburdened and disenfranchised by every administration at the city helm. When it comes to addiction centers, mental health facilities, homeless services, methadone clinics, halfway houses on every level, Tiny Home shelters, and other programs, D6 has taken far more than the lion’s share of the burden – more so than any other except District Two, with whom we are being pitted against in a Thunderdome-style battle in which the winner takes all and the loser faces plummeting property values.
Already we face a shortage of police while barrages of bullets fly day and night. We watch our tax dollars get siphoned away to more affluent areas of town, and we’re told it’s because those areas are more vocal in demand. For example: D6 has the most pedestrian fatalities citywide but will be receiving none of the Mayor’s Vision Zero dollars to help our blighted section of Central Avenue because, to paraphrase the Department of Municipal Development, “it’s tough down there.” Yes, we know. We live here.
We’re regularly admonished that it’s up to everyone to fight homelessness. Then why is it District Six and District Two are most often tasked with accepting programs such as Gateway? What seems glossed over is that this will be a wet shelter, accepting people in any state they arrive: full drug psychosis, dangerously intoxicated, in the throes of mental illness. Experts have advised that by allowing these conditions into the shelter, those most in need of emergency services and those who would avail themselves of the services to end homelessness will be the least likely to arrive. They’ve warned that at-risk women and families are adverse to enter a shelter if they perceive danger from unpredictable behaviors, that the mentally ill are unlikely to enter a large, bustling facility, and instead advocate for smaller, specialized facilities spread citywide.
Additionally, no one utilizing the shelter will be required to use the services for transitioning out of homelessness. What this means to D6 is that people can arrive nightly to sleep, then head out to neighborhoods all day to drink, use drugs and load up before returning to the shelter. We have numerous parks already unusable to taxpayers due to large camps, routinely broken up by police because of drug-selling operations, or awash with used syringes and paraphernalia. How can we believe the claims that our neighborhoods will be protected from further abuse when we are inundated already, receiving little as is? Roadway, median and beautification projects stop dead at our edges, even at the expense of our neighboring base for whom neglect is the first impression for officials and servicemen visiting our city. Where is the pride?
I bought my home in this area because I love the diverse culture, exceptional restaurants, plentiful museums and the friendly vibe exuded by the vintage neighborhoods. What should be a prized, multicultural gem has suffered enough neglect. Adding the Gateway Shelter would not only endanger our neighborhood further, it would overburden a struggling community to the breaking point. I urge the mayor, City Council and the citizens of Albuquerque to strongly consider switching from the mega-shelter model to the smaller, more specialized units advocated for by the experts, and many of the homeless themselves, in order to better assist those willing and able to transition, rather than creating a large, unmanageable catch-all sure to become Tim Keller’s ART-style legacy.
A petition against Lovelace Gibson as a homeless shelter site is at
The link to the Kristin Greene guest editorial column can be found here:
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
When it comes to city projects the term “NIMBY” stands for “Not In My Back Yard”. It describes opposition to proposed projects by home owners, property owners, and business owners. Two of the biggest issues that generate public outcry are the location of methadone clinics and homeless shelters. Mayor Keller’s desire to build a 24 hour, 7 day a week city built and run homeless shelter is a case of NIMBY and Mayor Keller is not listening to those who will have to deal with it long after he is gone as Mayor.
The two guest editorial columns reflect that debate rages on as to where to put the Keller 24-7 City Homeless Shelter. For that reason alone there is a likelihood a large segment of the voting public will get upset, no matter how necessary the shelter is needed. Mayor Tim Keller wants to break ground for the new shelter in the summer of 2021 which is when the race for Mayor begins to heat up, which is what happened with the ART Bus construction project.
Many issues are beginning to come into focus for the 2021 Mayor’s race where Tim Keller has already made it known that he is running for a second term. Those issues include increased high violent high crime rates, failure to increase APD sworn to 1,200 as promised, failure to implement community policing, Department of Justice consent decree reforms, increasing taxes without voter approval, severe budget cuts, reduced city services, the Mayor’s managing of the city’s response to corona virus and the city’s economic development efforts. Voters are also watching exactly what Mayor Tim Keller is doing as to his preferred location for the shelter which is the location likely the City Council will adopt.
Mayor Tim Keller is now perceived as mishandling the site selection process for the shelter, especially with his press conference to force UNM’s hand, and his failing to build true consensus on what the city should do and where the shelter should go. Mayor Tim Keller has added the location of the 24-7 city homeless shelter to the list of the many issues that will divide large segments of the city and that may deprive him of a second term.
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