On July 30, Dawn Legacy Point filed the first application ever for a ‘Safe Outdoor Space’ homeless encampment. “Safe outdoor spaces” are city sanctioned, homeless tent encampments with 40 designated spaces for tents. They allow upwards of 50 people to occupy the open space, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6 foot fencing and social services offered.
The homeless encampment is intended to provide accommodations for upwards of 50 women who are homeless and who are “sex-trafficking victims” and other vulnerable populations. The homeless encampment is to be located on vacant land at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE which consists of two large parcels of property owned by the city with an assess value of $4, 333,55.
Less than a half mile from the vacant land and within walking distance from the property is Menaul School, a private boarding school for 6th to 12th graders. Directly across the street from the property is the T-Mobile Call Center and a Quality Inn & Suites. The vacant land borders Sunset Memorial Park to the West where it has been reported he homeless are known to use the various fountains throughout the park to wash themselves or use the fountains as a toilet. Going West on Menaul and one block from the property is Carrington College and two apartment complexes. Immediately East of the Freeway is the massive TA Travel Truck Stop on University that can accommodate parking of upwards of 150 semitrucks. Within law enforcement circles, the truck stop is known for prostitution and illicit drug activity. Immediate south of the truck stop on University Blvd is the Crown Plaza Hotel.
On August 8, the City Planning Department approved the Dawn Legacy Point application for a Safe Outdoor Space homeless campsite at 1250 Menaul, NE. The City Planning Department unilaterally reviewed the application behind closed doors with no notice to surrounding businesses or neighborhood associations, no public hearing and no public input. The application was “fast tracked” by the Planning Department to approve the application just 8 days before the City Council was scheduled to repeal the Safe Outdoor Spaces.
8 APPEALS FILED
The following parties are appealing the Dawn Legacy Point Safe Outdoor Spaces homeless tent encampment, asking the City Planning Department to reverse its decision and deny the Safe Outdoor Space application of Dawn Legacy for 1250 Menaul:
- Martineztown Santa Barbara Neighborhood Association
- Menaul Middle School
- Life Roots
- Reuele Sun Corporation, a participant in the Menaul Redevelopment Area
- Crown Plaza Hotel, a participant in the Menaul Redevelopment Area
- T-Mobil Cell Phone Call Center
- Sunset Memorial Cemetery
- Greater Albuquerque Hotel and Lodging Association
NEW MEXICO SUN ARTICLES
On August 26, the on-line news agency New Mexico Sun published two revealing articles. One is entitled “Sex-trafficking survivor says women need more than Albuquerque’s ‘safe outdoor space’ to be safe: ‘Anything less is woefully inadequate’ written by its staff reporter Andy Nghiem. The second is entitled “Former outreach coordinator on new ‘safe’ outdoor space in Albuquerque: ‘This is the opposite of effective care’ written by staff reporter David Beasley. Taken together the articles reveal exactly why a homeless tent encampment for victims who are “sex-trafficking victims” is “just plain crazy.”
Following are the unedited articles with the New Mexico Sun links:
HEADLINE: “FORMER OUTREACH COORDINATOR ON NEW ‘SAFE’ OUTDOOR SPACE IN ALBUQUERQUE: ‘THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF EFFECTIVE CARE’
“The safe outdoor space at Menaul and I-25 will not protect women and the homeless and the idea that it will is “just plain crazy talk,” said Caroline Ofe, former outreach coordinator for Refuge City, a recovery agency for child sex trafficking survivors.
“The idea that this ‘safe space’ will be helpful to care for or protect women is just plain crazy talk,” Ofe told the New Mexico Sun. “This is the opposite of effective care and standard practices for trafficking survivors and people experiencing homelessness. Encampments like this are ineffective, actually encouraging destructive behavior and homelessness. No matter what way you slice it, they are bad for the women that they are allegedly meant to protect, and they are harmful to the homeless population, as evidenced by what happened in the previous park and similar arrangements in other parts of the country.”
Albuquerque’s first safe outdoor space, established by the newly formed organization Dawn Legacy Point at an empty lot at Menaul and I-25, will house mostly women and those affected by sex trafficking and exploitation but will provide no security for them.
“There just needs to be someplace for people to go, especially when they reach the point that they are going through sex trafficking or exploitation,” Kylea Goode, chairperson of Dawn Legacy Pointe, told KOB 4 on Aug. 8
However, housing dozens of women on one site with very little security could put them in a highly vulnerable state. “They are bad for the women that they are allegedly meant to protect, and they are harmful to the homeless population, as evidenced by what happened in the previous park and similar arrangements in other parts of the country,” Ofe said. As of now, the women who live in the encampment will be in charge of their security.
Ofe’s reference to “what happened in the previous park” is referring to the unofficial homeless encampment at Coronado Park, which closed due to violent crime and drug trafficking, KOAT reported.
Goode said she understands neighborhood concern but contends that arguments against safe outdoor spaces are often based on generalizations that all homeless people would introduce sex trafficking, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
But studies show how homeless systems like this do in fact benefit human trafficking operations and expose people to trafficking at a high level.
Dawn Legacy Pointe’s website includes a list of operational rules that were not included with their application and are in conflict with the submitted documents. For instance, its website states they will not accept sex offenders, or anyone convicted of human trafficking, but in the application for the encampment accepted by the city, the rules allow sex offenders to live in the encampment, so long as they are registered.
In addition to her time as outreach coordinator for Refuge City, Ofe is a former board member for the North Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Homeless Coalition of Dallas and the Collin County Homeless Coalition.”
The link to the NM Sun column is here
HEADLINE: SEX-TRAFFICKING SURVIVOR SAYS WOMEN NEED MORE THAN ALBUQUERQUE’S ‘SAFE OUTDOOR SPACE’ TO BE SAFE: ‘ANYTHING LESS IS WOEFULLY INADEQUATE’
“The newly formed nonprofit Dawn Legacy Point will establish Albuquerque’s first Safe Outdoor Space site at an empty lot on Menaul, just west of I-25.
After the city of Albuquerque fast-tracked and approved an application from Dawn Legacy Pointe to establish a tent camp for the homeless, concerns are being raised about the safety of its residents, and that the site might do more harm than good, especially for victims of sex trafficking.
The newly formed nonprofit Dawn Legacy Pointe will establish Albuquerque’s first Safe Outdoor Space site at an empty lot on Menaul, just west of I-25. The Dawn Legacy Pointe guidelines state that the encampment will house mostly women and those affected by sex trafficking and exploitation.
Lisa Bownds, CEO of Reflection Ministries and a survivor of sex trafficking, is a leading advocate for restorative care of trafficking victims and has established world-class facilities and programs assisting survivors. She raised concerns about the encampment as a means to support and protect women vulnerable to sex trafficking.
When asked if the creation of the safe outdoor space tent encampment would be a good way to help protect the population of women who are victims or vulnerable to sex trafficking, Bownds said, “Sex trafficking victims are the most vulnerable group to serve given the exceedingly high level of trauma they have endured at the hands of traffickers and buyers.”
“First and foremost, they need safety, security and the services to meet their basic needs [things that are often withheld by their traffickers as a method of coercion].
Secondly, they require trauma-informed care to address the mental and physical issues developed as a result of rape, beatings and other forms of abuse. Many victims need immediate medical and therapeutic care in conjunction with extensive counseling services.
Lastly, sex trafficking victims need access to education and economic empowerment opportunities in order to join the workforce and support a new life of freedom and restoration.
All these efforts require the commitment of a proven restorative care team to transition victims to independence and self-sufficiency. Anything less is woefully inadequate.”
Agni Kudra, secretary of Dawn Legacy Pointe, mentioned the site will serve people that have been trafficked or exploited in the sex trade, but people who live nearby say they fear the sanctioned encampment will only cause harm to their neighborhoods, according to KRQE News.
“There’s not going to be a criminal element allowed here, we want to keep our residents safe so if there is any trouble, we will be calling the police,” Kudra said, according to KRQE.
Chairperson of Dawn Legacy Pointe Kylea Goode said she understands neighborhood apprehension but contends that arguments against safe outdoor spaces are often based on generalizations that all homeless people would introduce sex trafficking, according to Albuquerque Journal. Dawn Legacy Pointe seeks to serve sex trafficking victims, however, housing dozens of women on one site with very little security puts them in a highly vulnerable state. As of now, the resident women in the encampment will be in charge of their security.
“There just needs to be someplace for people to go, especially when they reach the point that they are going through sex trafficking or exploitation,” Goode told KOB4. However, since the encampment will house mostly women as well as victims of sex trafficking, the lack of security at the site is a major concern.
The Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association, which represents the residents of the directly affected area of the encampment, filed an appeal against the City Planning Department’s approval of the Safe Outdoor Space permit. The appeal raises several issues and highlights the lack of transparency in the application and due process extended to the public and the impacted communities.
To add to the concerns, Dawn Legacy Pointe’s website includes a list of operational rules that were not included with its application and are in conflict with the documents it did include. The website states that it will not accept sex offenders, or anyone convicted of human trafficking. However, in the application for the encampment accepted by the city, the rules allow sex offenders to live in the encampment, so long as they are registered.
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
CITY’S HOUSING FIRST POLICY
The Keller Administration has adopted a housing first policy when it comes to dealing with the homeless crisis. The city has made a huge financial commitment to help homeless or near homeless.
This past fiscal year 2021 ending June 10, 2021, the Family and Community Services Department and the Keller Administration have spent upwards of $40 Million to benefit the homeless or near homeless. The 2021 adopted city budget for Family and Community Services Department provides for emergency shelter contracts totaling $5,688,094, affordable housing and community contracts totaling $22,531,752, homeless support services contracts totaling $3,384,212, mental health contracts totaling $4,329,452, and substance abuse contracts for counseling contracts totaling $2,586,302.
The link to the 2021-2022 city approved budget is here:
Mayor Keller’s 2022-2023 approved budget significantly increases the Family and Community Services budget by $24,353,064 to assist the homeless or near homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915.
A breakdown of the amounts to help the homeless and those in need of housing assistance contained in the 2022-2023 budget is as follows:
$42,598,361 total for affordable housing and community contracts with a major emphasis on permanent housing for chronically homeless. It is $24,353,064 more than last year.
$6,025,544 total for emergency shelter contracts (Budget page 102.), down $396,354 from last year.
$3,773,860 total for mental health contracts (Budget page105.), down $604,244 from last year.
$4,282,794 total homeless support services, up $658,581 from last year.
$2,818,356 total substance abuse contracts for counseling (Budget page 106.), up by $288,680 from last year.
The link to the 2022-2023 budget it here:
The 2022-2023 adopted city contains $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model and $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Tim Keller should be ashamed of himself. He should know that woman who are victims of sex trafficking need permanent housing that is a safe place to live and be provided with far more stable housing than a tent in an open area. Forcing victims of sex trafficking to live in tents is nothing more than victimizing them again.
The millions being spent each year by the city to deal with the homeless with the “housing first” policy should be more than sufficient to deal with housing the homeless, yet Mayor Keller demands and wants more from the public. Safe Outdoor Space encampments violates the city’s “housing first” policy by not providing a form of permanent housing and with reliance on temporary housing.
What is being created at 1205 Menaul, NE is a location for victims to become victims once again. There is no common sense to it and it is indeed just plain crazy. Mayor Tim Keller holds himself out as a progressive and has made housing of the homeless a top priority, yet ostensibly he has no problem with a Safe Outdoor Space to be use for victims of sex-trafficking.
The actual location is troubling and has the potential of becoming a magnet for crime, prostitution or illicit drug trade. It’s located in close proximity to a truck stop known amongst law enforcement for prostitution and illicit drug activity. It’s directly across the street from a major call center, a motel suite and is walking distance of Menaul Boarding School and apartments. Occupants of the ‘Safe Outdoor Space’ will not confined and would be free to go and come as they pleased and could easily wind up uninvited wherever they want to go. This includes the truck stop and disrupting the peaceful use and enjoyment at nearby locations or engaging in illicit activity.
Safe Outdoor Spaces are not the answer to the homeless crisis. “Safe Outdoor Spaces” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. They will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through housing. The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Safe Outdoor Spaces represent a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve oneself, bathe and sleep at night with rules that will not likely be followed.
The answer is to the homeless crisis is to provide the homeless the support services, including food and permanent lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around and perhaps become productive self-sufficient citizens. Ten encampments are nothing short of inhumane treatment of the homeless.