On August 9, 2022, the online news outlet “The New Mexico Sun” published an article entitled “Critic of Albuquerque’s SOS encampments says ‘women need actual, permanent housing” written by its staff reporter Andy Nghiem. Below is the unedited article followed by the link:
“Two days after the City of Albuquerque began accepting applications for its Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS), and after months of public debate on the controversial topic, the City received its first request for a campsite.
Dawn Legacy Pointe, a newly formed organization focused on assisting victims of sex trafficking and other at-risk groups, applied to operate a SOS at 1250 Menaul NE, west of Interstate 25, according to an Aug. 1 report by the Albuquerque Journal. A SOS, according to the report, is a managed site with restrooms, showers and storage spaces where homeless individuals can stay in tents or cars. The site on Menaul would accommodate 50 people, the maximum allowed, if approved, the Journal reports.
DLP is still a fledgling organization, and only submitted its formation paperwork to the New Mexico Secretary of State in the past weeks, according to the Journal. DLP will seek 501(c)3 status; until then local nonprofit Street Safe New Mexico is overseeing its finances. Operating its SOS will cost between $120,000 to $180,000, according to estimates.
The City plans to help with the operating costs, according to Carol Pierce, the director of Family and Community Services for the City.
DLP board chair Kylea Good told the Journal that she “wouldn’t be surprised if we maxxed out” in terms of occupancy.
“The truth of the matter is it’s not like we’re looking at just one area,” Good said in the report. “There’s a lot of [human] trafficking and exploitation that goes on around that area of Menaul, but you have a whole city that is dealing with it.”
Critics of the City’s plan to allow managed encampments on vacant lots has drawn push-back from some in the community, including attorney Pete Dinelli, who served in municipal and state government for 27 years and publishes a blog on politics. In a blog published Aug. 2, Dinelli called Good’s comments to the Journal “pretty damn amazing.”
“When she uses the words ‘trafficking and exploitation’, she is talking about woman who are victims of crime such as kidnapping or forced prostitution,” Dinelli wrote in the blog. “She is saying that she wants to provide tents in city sanction encampments to women who have already been victimized believing she is somehow being compassionate when such women need actual, permanent housing that is safe and secured and not living in a tent city.”
Dinelli claims that although the address of the DLP site has been reported, the reports failed to mention the businesses or school also located in the area. Dinelli listed a T-Mobile call center, a Quality Inn & Suites, a vacant building, a truck stop and two apartment buildings, as well as a cemetery.
“It is likely only those in the vicinity who will not object to the Safe Outdoor Spaces homeless encampment are those at Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetary (sic),” Dinelli wrote.
The City of Albuquerque notes on its website that in addition to restrooms and showers, SOS sites must offer support services such as education and job training and have a management and security arrangement including 24/7 onsite support. Security fencing is also required, according to several published reports.
Not everyone is convinced these measures are sufficient, however.
“All the encampment residents will not be confined to the area and will be able to go and come as they please without restrictions,” Dinelli wrote.
The future of SOS sites is still uncertain, the Journal reports. Although the City Council approved the plan in a 5-4 in June, council member Brook Bassan has withdrawn her support and has introduced measures to eliminate SOS and the council could vote to outlaw them in the next few weeks, according to the Journal. A repeal might not be sufficient to quash an SOS which has submitted a completed application, however.
“Even if the city ultimately repeals them,” the Journal reports, “an organization could cement its ability to run a safe outdoor space for years by submitting a complete application while they are legal.”
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here: