On Monday, October 3, Democrat Albuquerque City Councilors Louie Sanchez and Republican Trudy Jones introduced legislation to mandate permits and establish rules and regulations for the land use “Safe Out Door Spaces”. It appears the ordinance will have the necessary votes to pass. Enactment is likely and exercise in futility having the unintended consequence of the homeless avoiding the use of Safe Outdoor Spaces.
The new ordinance in part calls for registering tenants, completing a background check on the operator’s lists of who will be available to respond to complaints 24-7 and their experience working with the homeless. There would also be rules and regulation governing tenant behavior. Those rules include no drugs nor alcohol, an no violence. It will also mandate a security plan and provide the threshold for removing a camper and provide whether they can have guests and pets. According to the ordinance, an initial permit of one hundred dollars will be required, and a fifty-dollar fee for renewals.
Councilor Loui Sanchez had this to say about the proposed ordinance:
“What we needed to do is we needed to make sure that we have an ordinance in place, a permitting ordinance to make sure that the citizens outside the encampments are safe, the people that are working the encampment, and also the people that are in the encampment are safe.”
SPECIFIC RULES AND REGULATIONS PROPOSED FOR SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES
The ordinance is entitled “Safe Outdoor Space Operator’s Permit Ordinance”. The ordinance will establish minimum operational standards and a system of operational permitting for Safe Outdoor Spaces in order to promote sanitation and the health, safety, and general welfare of Safe Outdoor Space occupants and the broader community. Designated spaces are provided to occupants at no charge.
Under the proposed ordinance, a Safe Outdoor Space is defined as “a lot, or a portion of a lot, developed to provide designated spaces for occupancy by tents, recreational vehicles, and/or light vehicles.” The Integrated Development Ordinance also defines Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) as city sanctioned homeless encampments with 40 designated spaces for tents that will allow upwards of 50 people, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6-foot fencing and social services offered to the homeless.
A SAFE OUTDOOR SPACE OPERATOR is defined as the owner or party otherwise responsible for a Safe Outdoor Space operation.
The new ordinance mandates that permit will be Required and that “No person shall operate any safe outdoor space without first obtaining, and maintaining, a safe outdoor space operator’s permit … .“ a prospective operator will be required to submit the following for each SOS operator’s permit application:
- A statement describing the operator’s experience working with people experiencing homelessness and managing organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness;
- The physical address of the safe outdoor space;
- The name, phone number, email, and address of the operator or its 13 agent(s) who will be available twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week to respond to complaints regarding the operation or occupancy of the safe outdoor space;
- Written consent to complete a background check on the primary Operator.
- Persons with criminal backgrounds will be denied a safe outdoor space operators permit only to the extent authorized by the New Mexico Criminal Offender Employment Act., NMSA 1978 § 28-2-1 et. seq.
- An operations plan for the Safe Outdoor Space.
The operations plan for a Safe Outdoor Space is to include the following:
- The type and frequency of on-site resources and services to support the occupants of the safe outdoor space.
- The process for checking in and registering tenants.
- Site security and tenant safety.
- Fire safety and fire evacuation.
- Whether the site will be accessible to the general public, other than its tenants, and under what circumstances and during what hours.
- A code of conduct for the occupants and tenants that, at a minimum address violent behavior, weapons, drugs and alcohol, and whether progressive warnings will be utilized before removal.
- A pet policy that, to the extent pets are allowed, includes provisions to help ensure humane and sanitary conditions for pets.
- A community commitment outlining how the operational policies will mitigate potential off- site impacts.
- A policy to assist any person staying at a Safe Outdoor Space to obtain a government-issued identification card.
- A wastewater and sanitation plan; and
- A decommissioning plan describing the process and timeline 6 for termination of the use and closure of the site.
PETMIT DURATION AND FEES
Safe outdoor space operator’s permit will be valid for 12 consecutive months unless sooner terminated by the operator, or canceled by the City. The application materials required pursuant must be resubmitted at the time of each requested renewal. Under the ordinance, the City will collect a safe outdoor space operator’s permit fee of $100.00 for each initial permit, and $50.00 for the renewals thereafter. The revenue generated will be used only to administer, manage, and enforce the ordinance. Safe outdoor space operator’s permit will not be transferable and remain valid only so long as the person or entities listed on the operator’s permit continue to manage and oversee the safe outdoor space.
SAFE OUTDOOR SPACE OPERATING REQUIREMENTS
The following operating requirements are outlined in the proposed ordinance:
- Each operator will be required to maintain an up-to-date registry of the current and past tenants of the safe outdoor space, together with an approved visitor registry identifying each non-tenant who accesses the site.
- Each operator shall inspect the right-of-way and public spaces adjacent to or surrounding the safe outdoor space daily for the unlawful use or occupancy by non-tenants of the safe outdoor space and shall immediately report any such instances to the City using the 311 Citizens Contact Center.
- Each operator will be required to coordinate with an appropriate non-profit organization to provide street outreach in areas adjacent to the SOS.
- During the first 12-months of operation, each operator will be required to offer to meet with the property owners within 660 feet of the safe outdoor space at 30 least once per month to review operations and progress of the site, and to address questions, concerns, and ideas from the public.
- Following the first 4 months of operation, each operator shall offer these meetings on at least a 1 quarterly basis.
- Each operator must establish quiet hours for residents between the 3 hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am.
- Safe Outdoor Space Operators shall not permit persons with a felony 5 assault/battery conviction to stay in a Safe Outdoor Space
The link to the quoted news sources and to review the unedited proposed ordinance is here:
ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES
The City shall give warning to any operator who is determined to be non- compliant with any section of this ordinance, or with the policies submitted with its safe outdoor space operator’s permit application. If the operator does not come into compliance after two warnings. the City shall revoke the operator’s permit. Upon revocation, the operator shall immediately commence with its decommissioning plan, and complete its decommissioning within 60 days of the revocation. Under the proposed ordinance, each Safe Outdoor Space Operator of any safe outdoor space already in existence upon the effective date of this ordinance must come into compliance within thirty days of the Effective Date.
“POINT IN TIME” SURVEY
Each year the “Point in Time” 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 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”.
The PIT count uses the HUD definitions of “Sheltered”, “Unsheltered” and “Transitional Housing”. The Unsheltered are defined as those who encamp in neighborhood open space areas, alleys, parks, high-traffic areas and points of congregation, meal service sites, and general service sites. It is the “unsheltered” that Safe Outdoor Spaces are targeting and designed to help the most.
This year, the PIT count and survey was taken on January 31, 2022. The PIT report is 40 pages long and includes graphs and pie charts outlining the statistics reported. You can review the entire PIT report at this link:
The breakdown of Albuquerque’s homelessness on January 31, 2022 is reported as follows:
Emergency sheltered: 940
Transitional housing: 174
COMBINED TOTAL OF HOMELESS: 1,311
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The efforts of Democrat City Councilor Louie Sanchez and Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones proposing rules and regulations for Safe Outdoor Spaces no doubt is an effort to mitigate the damage such land use will do. It’s also an obvious attempt to placate a general public who have strong hostility and mistrust of Mayor , the City Council and city departments who are viewed as mishandling the city’s homeless crisis and who are forcing Safe Outdoor Spaces down the throats of the general public without any input nor public support.
The “code of conduct for the occupants and tenants” is understood and are commendable but is unrealistic. A code of conduct will likely be viewed by the homeless as too restrictive, especially by the mentally ill or drug addicted. The restrictions to try and attempt to curtail violent behavior, weapons, drugs and alcohol at Safe Outdoor Spaces border on the laughable and reflects a misunderstanding of the population they intend to serve.
Simply put, many homeless do not want to be part of or be reintroduced into society. They want to be left alone, free from any interference from society, family and government and to live without rules and regulations. The homeless who suffer from mental illness cannot be forced or required to do anything for their own benefit without due process of law. Likewise, restrictions on visitations and access to the camp sights by the public may be viewed as a violation of civil rights.
The attempt to require a “pet policy” for the homeless tenants that includes provisions to “help ensure humane and sanitary conditions for pets” is embarrassing to the point of being downright laughable. It raises the question if the homeless will be required to follow the city’s animal welfare Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment Ordinance (HEART) that requiring animal vaccinations of pets, availability of food, water and restrictions on confinement of the animals. It would far easier for the city policy to say “No Animals Allowed” at Safe Outdoor Spaces, but that would be common sense, something the City Council is not known for to any degree.
Placing the homeless in city sanctioned tent encampments is inhumane. Safe Outdoor Spaces are not the answer to the homeless crisis and will be a disaster for the city as a whole. 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. They will destroy neighborhoods and make the city a magnet for the homeless. They will destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through permanent housing and support services to the homeless.
Placing the homeless in city sanctions tent encampments such as Safe Outdoor Spaces is inhumane. Safe Outdoor Spaces are not the answer to the homeless crisis and will be a disaster for the city as a whole. 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. They will destroy neighborhoods and make the city a magnet for the homeless. They will destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through permanent housing and support services to the homeless.