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.
Judy Young and Valere Mcfarland have submitted a guest column for publication. They have not been compensated for their article and have given their permission to publish on www.PeteDinelli.com.
JUDY YOUNG, MA, LMFT, LCDC
Judy Young is a longtime resident of Albuquerque and was born in Gallup, New Mexico. She moved from Albuquerque to Houston, Texas where her parents then resided to assist them in their elder years. When they achieved their dream of returning to Albuquerque, she retired from her position as an educator in Houston and moved to Albuquerque to be their caretaker in their final years.
While in Houston, Texas, she was a teacher and counselor for at-risk youth, many of whom were gang members. She was successful in mentoring many of these students to leave the gang lifestyle. She developed and administered the first prison rehabilitation program in a high security prison in Houston, Texas at the South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility. The rehabilitation program Judy Young designed and implemented is still used today in Houston and in other prisons in throughout Texas.
Judy Young has a master’s degree in Community Program Development from Columbia University in New York City. Judy holds licenses as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT); and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counsellor (LCDC).While at Columbia, she worked on three very successful strategic projects that were a part of cleaning up NYC. After securing her master’s degree from Columbia, she returned to Albuquerque.
Soon after arriving in Albuquerque, she wrote the $92 million grant that started the Cancer Research and Treatment Center.She has been involved with community affairs for some time and she worked with Phil Chacon and Judy Anderson to fiercely lobby for the first publicly funded domestic violence program in the country. This domestic violence program was considered the flagship for the rest of the country to follow suit of revamping laws and provide protection for victims of domestic violence. Judy Young worked with New Mexico’s first promoter, Frank Crosby, who was widely known for promoting the Unser’s of New Mexico racing fame and representing businesses in the first Home and Sports Shows in New Mexico.
Judy has been actively engaged in the community with East Gateway Coalition, Singing Arrow Neighborhood Association, Women Taking Back Our Neighborhood, Homeless Task Force, Sheriff’s Citizens Academy, Foothills Community Policing Council. She has initiated recommendations that, when followed, significantly reversed the rise in crime. Judy Young is a candidate for Bernalillo County Commission, District 5.
VALERE MCFARLAND, PH.D.
Valere McFarland, Ph.D., is a former resident of Echo Ridge neighborhood located in in the Northeast 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 Southeast 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. McFarland holds degrees in gerontology, anthropology, and sociology. Her master’s degree is in education foundations, and political science. Her PhD 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 studies. She has have worked with the homeless, including disadvantaged youths her entire career. When she was doing her gerontology degree, 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. She has been an officer and director of for-profit and not-for-profit boards. She is a small business owner and has deep concerns about the impact of crime in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, and all of New Mexico.
JUDY YOUNG AND VALERE MCFARLAND GUEST COLUMN
THE CAMPUS MODEL – A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO ENCAMPMENTS AND SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES
As members of Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods and the Albuquerque community, we are voicing our strong opposition to the Amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances that are scheduled for vote at the City Council meeting on June 6, 2022. These amendments update the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance to create ‘living lots’ that allow sleeping overnight in tents, cars or RVs, and the other is called ‘safe outdoor spaces’ which are commonly known as ‘encampments.’ These proposed amendments will be voted on at the June 6, 2022, City Council meeting and if approved will alter the lifestyles and property values of Albuquerque residents for decades to come.
In preparing this article, we conducted a review of the literature for city sanctioned encampments in four western U.S. cities (results are listed on our complete report attached to this abstract). Cities have learned that this kind of tolerance does not allow them to perform their fiduciary, which is to first protect physical and fiscal safety of their citizenry.
The amendment proposed by Councilor Basson that would allow criminal elements to inhabit our residential neighborhoods raises the questions of:
(a) whether Councilor Basson and the majority council members are honoring their fiduciary to protect the citizens of Albuquerque; and,
(b) whether Councilor Basson and the majority council members recognize that mixing a criminal element with other unsuspecting and unprotected encampment residents would cause an inhumane condition with threats of bodily and psychic damage.
Our review of four western cities (Denver, Honolulu, Salt Lake City and Honolulu) that have implemented sanctioned encampments, with huge levels of support and services that Albuquerque cannot begin to match, has shown that irreparable damage has been sustained by these cities: not just to residents and neighborhoods where sanctioned encampments are placed, but to innocent encampment residents who have been raped, murdered, beaten, robbed and experienced what can only be described as “inhumane treatment” (while being promised safety as residents by city employees as Outreach Workers).
A DISASTER IN THE MAKING
Councilor Basson and council members showing support for her proposal are exhibiting zero accountability to put forth what our review has shown to be a disaster in the making. We reviewed the outcomes of sanctioned encampments in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Honolulu, including their new policy directives for transitional housing such as the Gibson Model, tiny home communities (done the right way); and a community/campus model. The review also includes policies of some 65 cities across the United States who, having recognized the destruction to their citizens from the encroachment of encampments, are implementing ordinances to remove all encampments.
To comply with the 2018 Boise, Idaho federal court decision Martin v. City of Boise 2018 cities must have services that include shelters and beds to accommodate the homeless population. Increasing accommodations and services for homeless bring cities closer toward compliance with Martin v. City of Boise 2018. These programs bring physical and fiscal safety to communities while reducing crime.
Thus, we request that the proposal to sanction dangerous and crime inducing encampments within the City of Albuquerque be withdrawn. If this proposal for zoning changes comes to a vote, we are asking ALL City Councilors to vote ‘NO.’
There is an alternative to this bad idea, and we have outlined it below.
THE CAMPUS MODEL
Albuquerque City’s purchase of the Gibson Medical Center (GMC) with its Gateway Hub has been a significant STEP ONE toward the City’s commitment to comply with the 2018 federal court decision known as Martin v. City of Boise, Idaho that said, ‘cities cannot make it illegal for people to sleep or rest outside without providing sufficient indoor alternatives.’ Albuquerque City is moving toward finding beds for those homeless individuals who are currently residing in unsanctioned encampments.
While Gateway Hub at GMC will be a step in the right direction, it will not be large enough to serve the needs of the homeless population in unsanctioned encampments. The Campus Model provides an additional step as an adjunct to the Gateway Hub at Gibson Medical Center for transitioning to permanent housing. This establishes it as a Viable Alternative to Encampments.
The Campus Model recognizes that there are two categories of homeless individuals: the transit homeless and the local or ‘real’ homeless. The Campus Model is geared to serve the local homeless population. The Campus Model works effectively because it separates the truly local homeless population from the non-local transient population.
The truly homeless are a local population that benefits from services and wishes to better themselves. The transient homeless is a population that travels from city to city, takes advantage of handouts, and has no desire to better themselves. This population consists of those who panhandle and/or commit crimes to feed their drug and/or alcohol addiction. They indeed welcome a handout, but they have no desire to better themselves. Thus, they can destroy a local community.
FIRST STEP: GATEWAY HUB AT GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER.
“The Gibson Medical Center (GMC) is to be an anchor facility to fill healthcare and social service gaps to Albuquerque’s homeless population. The Gateway Center will comprise a portion of the facility to provide a point of entry shelter and services to the homeless. The mission of the Gateway Center will be to “provide a safe and welcoming place that provides a low-barrier, trauma-informed shelter along with services to the homeless using a client-centered approach.”
SECOND STEP: CAMPUS MODEL
This is a viable researched based alternative that has worked in other cities and can serve as an adjunct to the city’s long-range plan to provide services to the homeless by offering a community centered approach to transition individuals who represent the local homeless population to permanent homes.
The CAMPUS MODEL should be located outside the city where larger tracts of land at cheaper prices can be purchased. Two possible locations are: (a) The existing Westside Emergency Housing Center. It is a county/city operated facility, but the city owns the land. The existing building will need to be razed but there is land to utilize while this is being done. (b) A second site may be the Double Eagle II airport where the city also owns large areas of land.
The key components to the Campus Model would be as follows:
1. Temporary housing can be expanded to include dormitory style units with community kitchens and bathrooms for singles. Small apartments with separate bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms with accommodations for families or individuals with service animals can be built in a later stage as well.
2. Meals: Provided cafeteria style with volunteers assisting.
3. Medical care will be needed for physical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment and police drop-off. Cost-effective ways to handle some of this can include nurses or physicians assistants staffed seven days, 24-hours. Coordination with Gateway Hub (GMC) can be made for more intensive medical care.
4. Education and job training: Non-profit, education and other providers would be able to work together to deliver comprehensive care services.
5. Community center: Includes a central meeting place for activities such as self-care and community gardening.
It is clear that the Albuquerque City Council is searching for placements that involve more numbers of homeless individuals than can be accommodated in the planned Gateway Hub at the Gibson Medical Center. The Campus Model will supplement services offered at the Gateway Hub at the GMC, easing a significant gap in available space and services. The proposed sanctioned encampments with a change in zoning to create ‘living lots’ that allow sleeping overnight in tents, cars or RVs, and ‘safe outdoor spaces are destined to fail options and threaten physical and fiscal safety to residences, citizens, and businesses.
The Campus Model seeks to rehabilitate local homeless and prepare them to reintegrate into society with the dignity of being able to support themselves through employment. The Campus Model supports individuals who choose to work, pay taxes, and participate in a stable civic life. Note: Several cities have directly benefitted from the Campus Model. For example, Houston used an integrative model. San Antonio used the Campus Model.
The benefits of the campus model are identified as follow:
1. Cleans up our parks and recreational sites built for family recreational purposes.
2. Supports businesses within the local economy (where they currently incur the adverse economic impact from homeless and transients).
3. Provides public safety with policies against public intoxication, drugs or alcohol, and where all residents are held accountable. The Campus Model effectively separates the truly local homeless population from non-local transients.
We offer the following four recommendations:
1. The City of Albuquerque needs to conduct and update its own point in time survey.
EDITOR’S NOTE: 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. 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. 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.
There exists a strong rationale and fiscal support for a PIT survey to be conducted by the city. Any survey of need must first address the target population. The target population for all of the current piecemeal projects is local homeless. To miss the target population is to miss the mark with devastating results. The city needs to do its own ‘Point in Time’ survey and get an accurate count of homeless living on the street and camping. The new Albuquerque Community Safety department could do the survey. This could start with Coronado Park and the downtown areas of concentration and come up with numbers in each city council district.
In fiscal year 2021, the Keller Administration created the Department (ACS) with an initial budget of $2.5 million. The ACS consists of social workers and mental health care workers to deal with those suffering from a mental health crisis or drug addiction crisis and they are dispatched in lieu of sworn police or fire emergency medical paramedics. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) dispatches trained and unarmed professionals to respond to 9-1-1 calls that do not require a police or paramedic response. ACS is taking hundreds of calls per month, easing the burden on police and paramedics and improving outcomes on behavioral health calls. The Fiscal Year 2023 enacted budget for ACS is for $15 million to provide funding to add 74 new positions to make it a 24/7 round-the-clock operation across the city. Thus, PIT funding and staff support are available.
2. All city council members must either vote ‘no’ or withdraw the proposed amendments to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance that would create ‘living lots’ and ‘safe outdoor spaces.’ note: the meeting for the scheduled vote has been set for June 6, 2022.
3. City council approval of resolution calling for the implementation of the campus model at the westside emergency housing center, double eagle ii airport, or another suitable location conducive to campus model location requirements (outside the city parameters to prevent access to prior influences).
4. Use the $950,000 amount that was budgeted may 16, 2002 for unapproved ‘living lots’ and ‘safe outdoor spaces’ to begin campus model site prep and construction
5. Appoint a professionally mediated emergency homelessness task force to include citizens who have worked directly ‘on-the-ground with the Albuquerque homeless population.
Albuquerque is at a critical crossroads. The City can either choose to instill a program of harm for decades and generations to come, or it can choose one of ‘short term pain for long term gain.’ The latter entails carefully building a comprehensive Campus Model with an integrative program for the real homeless. Instead of following a path that will lead to certain harm to residents and neighborhoods, we offer a working alternative with the Campus Model. Recommendations and working solutions to homelessness are multi-layered.
We recognize that there is a population that has barriers to obtaining services and housing. However, the priority of government leaders in Albuquerque – as it is in any city – is the physical and fiscal safety of the residents, including those locals who are homeless. This is called a ‘fiduciary’ and is inherent in a representative democracy.
We want to trust that it is a given that our safety is paramount to our elected officials. We cannot nor should we have to examine our leaders in the way they make decisions. But with the proposal to amend zoning to accommodate encampments within our neighborhoods and the lineup of votes supporting the proposal, what are we to think about these elected officials’ view of our safety?
The City Council has approved some $950,000 in the May 16, 2022 budget for the not yet approved Amendments for encampments and safe places. This money can be transferred to the Campus Model program to begin construction. We say ‘STOP’ now and put on the brakes to an idea that has been proven to not work. Encampments are a danger to our community and are unwanted!
Judy Young, MA, LMFT, LCDC
Valere McFarland, Ph.D
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
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.
CITY MEETING MORAL OBLIGATION TO HELP HOMELESS
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.
ENFORCE THE LAW
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.
TELL COUNCIL TO VOTE NO
“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: