Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country.
The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels.
The PIT count requires the use of the HUD definition of “homelessness”. PIT follows the HUD definition of homelessness and counts only people who are sleeping in a shelter, in a transitional housing program, or outside in places not meant for human habitation. Those people who are not counted are those who do not want to participate in the survey, who are sleeping in motels that they pay for themselves, or who are doubled up with family or friends
HUD requires that any community receiving federal funding from homeless assistance grant programs conduct an annual count. In even numbered years, only sheltered homeless are surveyed. In odd numbered years, both sheltered and unsheltered homeless are surveyed. Only those homeless people who can be located and who agree to participate in the survey are counted.
HUD defines sheltered homeless as “residing in an emergency shelter, motel paid through a provider or in a transitional housing program.” It does not include people who are doubled up with family or friends.
HUD defines “unsheltered homeless” as those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation including streets, parks, alleys, underpasses, abandoned buildings, campgrounds and similar environments.
The PIT count is viewed as a single night snapshot of homeless people and it is understood to be an undercount. The City of Albuquerque contracts with The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness to conduct the annual “Point in Time” (PIT). In even-numbered years, only homeless people who stay in shelters are counted. The PIT count represents the number of homeless people who are counted on one particular night. This year’s count occurred from January 26 to February 1.
2021 POINT-IN-TIME (PIT) REPORT
On June 22, Albuquerque’s 2021 Point-In-Time (PIT) report was released that surveyed both sheltered and unsheltered homeless. This year, the survey asked where people stayed the night of January 25.
Major highlights of the 2021 PIT report are as follows:
There were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque, a slight increase over the 2019 count of 1,524 homeless.
Albuquerque’s unsheltered homeless decreased from 567 people in 2019 to 413 in the 2021 count.
42% of Albuquerque’s unsheltered were defined as chronically homeless, meaning they had been continuously homeless for at least a year and had a disabling condition
21% said they were homeless due to COVID
37% were experiencing homelessness for the first time
12% were homeless due to domestic violence.
30.19% of the homeless in Albuquerque self-reported as having a serious mental illness,
25.5% self reported as substance abusers.
In the rest of the state, 37.92% of the homeless self-reported a serious mental illness, while 63.3% self reported as substance abusers.
The combined PIT numbers for the areas outside of Albuquerque is defined in the report as “Balance of State” (BOS). The 2021 BOS PIT count reports that 1,180 sheltered and unsheltered homeless, a 31% decrease from the 1,717 counted in 2019.
Operators of programs that provide services to Albuquerque’s homeless say the actual number of homeless is far greater than indicated in the PIT count. The Albuquerque Public Schools says the number of homeless children enrolled in district schools, meaning kids from families that have no permanent address, has consistently been more than 3,000.
The link to quoted statistics is here:
PRIOR POINT-IN-TIME COUNTS
According to the 2019 Point-In-Time count, there were 1,524 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people counted in Albuquerque . This is 206 more homeless than the 2017 PIT count that recorded 1,318 homeless people in the city limits.
The 2017 survey found that there were 1,318 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count, which then was an increase of 31 people over the 2015 PIT Count. The 2015 survey count found 1, 287 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count.
For 2017, 379 people self-reported as chronically homeless, which was an increase of 119 people over the 2015 PIT Count. PIT counted 39 more people who self-reported as chronically homeless who were sheltered and 80 more people that self-report as chronically homeless who were unsheltered in 2017. The 2019 PIT report states that most people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Albuquerque were residents of Albuquerque before becoming homeless.
The link to quoted statistics is here:
ACTUAL NUMBER OF HOMELESS MUCH BIGGER
Government agencies and nonprofits report that the city’s homeless numbers are greater than those found in the PIT reports and that the number of homeless in Albuquerque approaches 4,500 to 5,000 in any given year.
The nonprofit Rock At Noon Day offers meals and other services to the homeless. Noon Day Executive Director Danny Whatley reported that there are 4,000 to 4,500 homeless people in the Albuquerque area. What is alarming is that according to Whatley, the fastest-growing segments are senior citizens and millennials (ages 23 to 38 in 2019).
Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students. APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta stated the number of homeless children enrolled in district schools, meaning kids from families that have no permanent address, has consistently ranged from 3,200 to 3,500. APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program. The APS school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.
The centralized citywide system known as the Coordinated Entry System that the city uses to track the homeless and fill supportive housing openings reports that approximately 5,000 households experienced homelessness last year.
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 approximately $41 million. The $41 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. The city’s West Side Emergency Housing Center has up to 450 beds available. The shelter is now open year-round. The operating cost of the facility is $4.4 million a year.
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. The city spends $8 million a year to provide 775 vouchers for rental assistance and to move homeless people from the street into housing. In the 2019-2020 approved city budget, an additional $2 million was added to the fund which will allow another 125 to 150 people to get into housing.
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.
CITY BUYS GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER FOR GATEWAY CENTER
On Wednesday, May 7, 2020, Mayor Keller announced that the city was abandoning the development concept of a single, 300-bed homeless shelter and that the city would be proceeding with a “multi-site approach” to the city’s homelessness crisis. Mayor Tim Keller went so far as to state that the 300 bed Gateway Center was “off the table”.
The city officials said the new multi-site approach could mean a series of “smaller facilities” throughout the community. Ostensibly, there would be no single resource hub in one large facility as was originally proposed with the 300 bed Gateway Center. City Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce offered insight into what the city means when it refers to small shelters and had this to say:
“We’re often talking 100 to 150 beds of emergency shelter that could be defined as a smaller shelter.”
On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference in front of the Gibson Medical Center, formerly the Lovelace Hospital, to officially announce the city had bought the massive 572,000 square-foot building that currently has a 201 bed capacity, for $15 million using in part $14 million in voter approved bonds. The facility will be transformed into one of the Gateway Center for the homeless facilities.
In making the announcement, Keller said in part:
“The City of Albuquerque has officially bought the Gibson Medical Center, the cornerstone of our Gateway Center network. In total, this represents the largest capital investment that Albuquerque has ever made for the unhoused. We have roughly 5,000 homeless people. … what we’re looking at here is to move past this question of where … No matter how you feel about it, we’ve answered that question .”
Carol Pierce, the city’s Director of the Family and Community Services Department ad this to say about the Gateway project:
We know this Gateway Center won’t solve the issue of homelessness in Albuquerque, and this is not the end of the road – it’s another step that will expand the system of care for our unhoused neighbors. The city continues to invest in these priorities through $29.6 million in social services contracts with local partners that provide shelter and behavioral health services, along with rental assistance and case management to attain and retain housing. Our annual investment in supportive housing increased by 44% since FY18. More affordable housing will be made available through $11 million in the Workforce Housing Trust Fund and on top of the $5.4 million spent in FY21 to build/renovate affordable housing. Recently, a $21.6 million investment for emergency rental assistance added new support for landlords and tenants to keep people who are in danger of losing their homes.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The greatness of a city is reflected by the commitment it makes to help its homeless who suffer 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.
Charitable organizations such as Joy Junction, St. Martins HopeWorks project, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day and Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless provide services to the homeless, and do so by being where the homeless can be found and where the homeless can seek out, reach and have easy access to services.
All too often, we tend to forget our humanity, our political philosophy and our religious faith and beliefs of hope and charity, and condemn the homeless for what we think they represent or who we think they are. We condemn the homeless whenever they interfere with our lives at whatever level – such as pandering for money, begging for food, acting emotionally unstable, sleeping in doorways and defecating in public, and, yes, when we stand downwind from them and smell what living on the streets results in personal hygiene.
The sight of homeless camps, homeless squatters in parks and living under bridges usually generates disgust. People condemn the families of the mentally ill for not making sure their loved one has been institutionalized or is taking their medications.
All too often, the families of the homeless mentally ill are totally incapable of caring for or dealing with their loved one’s conduct. We easily forget the homeless are human beings who usually have lost all hope, all respect for themselves and are imprisoned for life in their own minds, condemned to fight their demons every hour, minute and second of their life until the very day they die.
One thing that must never be forgotten is the homeless have human rights to live as they choose, not as anyone says they should live. The homeless cannot be forced to do anything against their free will or change their life unless they want to do it themselves.
The homeless should not and cannot be arrested and housed like criminals or animals. Many homeless do not want to be reintroduced into society, and many have committed no crimes and they want to simply be left alone.
The homeless who suffer from mental illness cannot be forced or required to do anything for their own benefit without due process of law. Too often, the homeless are the victims of crimes, even being bludgeoned to death for fun as Albuquerque saw a few years ago when three teenagers killed two Native Americans sleeping in a vacant lot on a discarded mattress.
We as a city have a moral obligation to make every effort and make available to the homeless services they desperately need.