Guest Column By Valere McFarland, Ph.D : “Housing Best Solution To Solve Homeless Crisis, Not City Sanctioned Homeless Encampments”; City To Purchase Tents; Council Needs To Vote NO Rejecting “Living Lots” and “Safe Outdoor Spaces”

The Albuquerque City Council is proposing to create two new “land use” zoning areas to allow 2 separate types of city sanctioned homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts for a total of 18 city sanctioned homeless encampments. Both are amendments updating the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that regulates residential and commercial zoning development and land use throughout the city.

One is called “living lots” and the other “safe outdoor spaces”. City sanctioned homeless encampments will be permitted in both areas. The “safe outdoor spaces” calls for the creation of government sanctioned homeless campsites where the homeless will be able to sleep and tend to personal hygiene. Under living lots zoning, open space areas would be designated where people would be allowed to sleep overnight in tents, cars or RVs. Empty parking lots and other unused space could be used.


Valere McFarland, Ph.D., is a former resident of Echo Ridge neighborhood located in in the North East heights City Council District 4 represented by City Councilor Brook Bassan. Although currently not a resident of New Mexico, she plans on returning soon and has a very strong interest in crime in Albuquerque because of contacts she still has here. She is a very active member of “Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods” (WTBON), a group founded in 2018 in South East Albuquerque to inform the public and demand greater accountability from elected and other civic leaders for preventing crime on Central Ave., in neighborhoods, and in public parks.

Dr. Mc Farland has four undergraduate degrees including gerontology, anthropology, and sociology. Her master’s degree is a dual education foundation, and political science. Her PhD was is in education policy that overlaps to business, medicine, politics. She spent an extra year in her PhD program to gain a certificate in “disability” counseling. She has have worked with the homeless her entire career. When she was doing her gerontology practicum, or social work on aging, she worked in a homeless shelter. She has worked for most of her career in education in a Research One university with high at risk of achieving, indigenous populations. During her career she has dealt with issues of poverty and homelessness and has spent a lifetime challenging and confronting unequal treatment of disadvantaged individuals, groups, and populations, through providing access to an equality-based education.

On May 12, Dr. Mc Farland wrote to all members of the city council and Mayor Tim Keller the following meme voicing her strong opposition to both “living lots” “safe outdoor spaces”. She also proposes another option.

EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: Valere Mcfarland, Ph.D. gave permission to publish her memo to the City Council and Mayor and she was not compensated by


May 12, 2022




“I am writing to voice strong opposition to IDO Amendment Changes that propose ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ to address homelessness in Albuquerque … .

I am also enclosing my first letter of opposition, sent to you on 5-3-2022. That letter outlined an option for treating the transit homeless and local homeless as the separate entities they are by establishing a Campus Model for the local homeless population. To reiterate: transit homeless individuals (in Albuquerque and other major cities faced with homelessness such as New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu, Dallas and Houston) commit a disproportionate number of felonies. These are not crimes of petty shoplifting: they are violent and major felony crimes and include rape, assault, running prostitution rings including underage girls and trafficked girls and women, selling hard drugs, theft and other serious crime.

By contrast, folks living without a key to a residence because they are the victims of job-downsizing during the Covid 19 crisis, rent increases from inflation, or hardship from illness, death of a loved one including spouse or partner, are not criminals. They are our neighbors and relatives and we are a paycheck away from being them and they are a paycheck away from becoming ‘us.’

So on that note, I wish to state my strong objection to Councilwoman Brooke Basson’s ‘othering’ behavior. Once again, I wish to remind Brooke that she is not ‘better than’ anyone and the local homeless are not ‘lesser than.’ I want to remind Brooke that SHE is one paycheck away from a recall. Additionally, I wish to point out that the idea of putting proposed ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ on San Pedro Drive is wrong from every economic and moral standpoint and every council person who votes for this ill-thought-out proposal is culpable.

The proposed red-line for the implementation of the misguided amendments runs from South Albuquerque to North Albuquerque, along San Pedro Drive, home to middle income single family homes belonging to tax paying citizens, middle income long established subdivisions whose residents are tax paying citizens, small businesses that have survived the economic crises of supply chain issues, Covid 19 employment issues, inflation we have not seen since Jimmy Carter’s presidency …, parks with local residents jogging in the early mornings prior to going to their JOBS where they earn money to pay taxes to pay city council salaries, and where they bring their families and pets for evenings in the parks after WORK (an idea foreign by choice to the transit homeless); churches, a major city library, residential houses for disabled individuals and elderly; and culminating at the golf course on the northern end of San Pedro Drive.

All of the outdoor activities currently available and enjoyed by residents will be gone if you instill ‘Living Lots’ and ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces.’ First, this is not a ‘safe’ idea because even the most naive resident of a major metropolitan area knows that EVERY transient without exception carries a knife. They do not have a knife because they are the aggressor – but because they need protection from other aggressive and often mentally ill transit homeless individuals.

And no matter the individual, when a fight is stirred, the knives come out. An innocent passer-by, jogger, child, pet, or another ‘Living Lot’ and/or ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ resident can be injured just by being in proximity of the altercation. Trying to ‘get away’ from this in a wheelchair will be impossible and all the now safe activities of park use time, picnicking and walking dogs will be history.

Your jobs are to protect the public physically and fiscally. This proposal does neither. You have a staff who should be tasked with bringing workable solutions to your attention. I am [suggesting] an idea that worked in a western city, not so different demographically, from Albuquerque, NM; i.e., Salt Lake City, Utah. I am wondering if you are aware of the success in addressing homelessness in Salt Lake City, Utah? Salt Lake City’s business leaders rolled up their sleeves about five years ago and implemented a plan that was deemed radical at the time: the city purchased homes for the homeless. And instead of ‘costing’ them this program has ended up saving them money to the tune of millions of dollars annually.

[Below is the Link to a Washington Post article entitled “The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions] detailing this successful program … .

Homelessness was reduced from some of the highest numbers in the United States to a level today where homeless individuals are known by name, not a ‘number.’ While it is true that an element of the transit population is averse to ‘sleeping inside,’ in this event, that element soon found other places (not Salt Lake) to live. They moved away and Salt Lake City was no longer their ‘chosen stop’ on the way to ‘somewhere.’ Those remaining, who included the local homeless, accepted housing. And those who accepted the idea became part of the solution. Instead of dozens of trips to emergency rooms, these individuals became responsible for their own health care and attended medical appointments that included preventive health care.

An ancillary benefit from this program has been the growth of the city in every area. Salt Lake City has a high ‘safe’ rating and is known as business friendly. Businesses want to invest in a city rated as having ‘safe living’ because they can more easily hire and retain employees.

Instead of finding a successful model that includes furnishing housing and providing a Campus Model, you have found your lowest common denominator with every other failed metropolitan area program. What are you thinking? Did you think we would not notice?

You can and should do better for what is the most beautiful city in the United States. Albuquerque is unmatched with its geographical beauty, location, perfect climate, but most of all the generous hearts of its citizens. Why would you even consider such an unworkable from the get-go plan that threatens to harm the citizens who pay your salaries? Please slow down and consider plans that work.


Valere McFarland, Ph.D
Member, Women Taking Back Our Neighborhood


On Tuesday, May 10, the City of Albuquerque made a presentation before the Bernalillo County’s Homeless Coordinating Council elaborating on its plans for “Safe Outdoor Spaces”. The presentation was made by Elizabeth Holguin with the City’s Family and Community Services Department.

According to Holguin, the city envisions that “Safe Outdoor Spaces” would be communities of tents for the homeless population, uniform in design and structure, and fenced in for safety. Holguin told the coordinating council:

“Not anyone can just walk up. … People will be accepted based on outreach worker referral. … Resources like bathrooms, showers, electricity, shade structures, sometimes even internet [will be provided] … Definitely handwashing stations. There’s often connections to food and meals and all of the different outreach services that can be provided. … You cannot bring anything that does not fit into your structure. You get a storage bin, sleeping area, and chair. … there would be policies preventing weapons, and the safe spaces would be supervised by a management team. … [Drugs and alcohol would be allowed inside tents, the same way they are allowed in homes but] obviously there’s no drug dealing [allowed]”.

City official also recognized that the tents are not a solution to homelessness, but hope they will help curb the metro’s crime crisis by providing a safer alternative to life on the street. The initiative is still in its early planning stages, so size and potential locations remain up in the air.
The link to quoted source material is here:


Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a much larger return on investment than offering government sanctioned encampments and “tent cities”. Given the millions the city is spending each year, it needs to continue with the approach of offering programs, building shelter space and making beds available for its homeless population.


The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless, especially those who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. The city is in fact meeting that moral obligation with the city spending upwards of $114 Million with housing assistance vouchers, mental health care services and shelter for the homeless.

Albuquerque is making a huge financial commitment to help the homeless. Last year, it spent upwards of $40 million to benefit the homeless in housing and services. The 2023 proposed budget significantly increases funding for the homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915. The city contracts with 10 separate homeless service providers throughout the city and it funds the Westside 24-7 homeless shelter.

The city has bought the 572,000-square-foot Lovelace Hospital Complex on Gibson for $15 million that currently has space of 200 beds or more and transforming it into the Gateway Center Homeless shelter. City officials have said that the city is expected to launch multiple services on the property this winter, including a 50-bed women’s shelter, a sobering center and a space designed to deliver “medical respite” care for individuals who would have no place other than a hospital to recover from illnesses and injury.

The massive facility could be remodeled even further to house the homeless and convert offices, treating rooms, operating rooms and treatment rooms into temporary housing accommodations. The onsite auditorium and cafeteria could also be utilized for counseling and feeding programs from service providers.


Too many elected and government officials who want to establish government sanction encampments have a hard time dealing with the facts that many homeless adults simply want to live their life as they choose, where they want to camp for as long as they can get away with it, without any government nor family interference and especially no government rules and no regulations.

The city cannot just ignore and not enforce its anti-camping ordinances, vagrancy laws, civil nuisance laws and criminal laws nor pretend they simply do not exist. Squatters who have no interest in any offers of shelter, beds, motel vouchers or alternatives to living on the street really give the city no choice but to make it totally inconvenient for them to “squat” anywhere they want and force them to move on. After repeated attempts to force them to move on and citations arrests are in order.


The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis. The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.


“Safe outdoor spaces” and “living lots” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. Both will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city efforts to manage the homeless through housing. The public needs to make their opinions known and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.

The public needs to voice their opinions and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.

The email address to contact each city councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:


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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.