On January 4, 2022, the city announced that it will use the future Gateway Center located at 5400 Gibson SE for temporary winter “emergency shelter” use beginning on January 10. The location is the Gibson Lovelace Medical Center that was acquired by the city last year and that is being remodeled for the Gateway Homeless Shelter. The January 10 opening will be the first time the city shelters people who are homeless at the site.
According to city officials, emergency overnight space for 50 people, both men and woman, who are now sleeping on the streets or in unauthorized encampments will be made available. The city said the emergency shelter is needed now as an alternative to the existing West Side Shelter where the unhoused are refusing to go.
Outreach teams will be dispatched to locate and identify unhoused from unsanctioned encampments around the city and offer them an indoor place to stay at the location during the coldest months of the year. The unhoused will be transported to the site in the late afternoon and bused out each morning.
City Officials with the Family And Community Services Department said that the winter emergency shelter effort is totally separate from the “Gateway Center” which is scheduled to open in April or early Spring. When the Gateway Center finally opens, it will initially have shelter beds for 50 women with services made available to them.
Elizabeth Holguin, deputy director in the city’s Family and Community Services Department, said this:
“We wanted more options for people in town. … This is simply to help people survive the cold nights, and that’s it.”
On January 4, the City Council approved a $1.1 million contract with the nonprofit Heading Home to run the emergency shelter through April 3. Heading Home has also been contracted to operate the Gateway Center when it is scheduled to open in three months. Outreach teams will work specifically to bring in people from unsanctioned encampments around the city and give them an indoor place to stay during the coldest months of the year.
City Council President Pat Davis raised questions about the city’s readiness to open the site for emergency overnight stays. Davis’s city council district includes the Gateway Center property. Davis was among 3 city councilors who voted against the contract, saying he did not believe the city had yet met its obligations under the “good neighbor agreement” it has with the community surrounding the Gateway Center. Family and Community Services Department Director Carol Pierce said the city has met its “good neighbor agreement” responsibilities and that regular meetings with neighbors will allow them to voice any future concerns. There was no mention if the Family and community Services Department gave a heads up to the various neighborhood associations in the area.
The link to the quoted news source is here:
“GOOD NEIGHBOR AGREEMENT”
The Good Neighbor Agreement explains the Gateway Centers purpose. The agreement stipulates that the city will:
- Provide 24/7 professional security at the site, including a security car and closed-circuit TV cameras
- Improve exterior lighting, and keep the property “clean and orderly”
- Establish “clear and reliable” ways for the surrounding community to communicate about the site
- Hold monthly planning meetings with the neighborhood
- Set up an on-site office for the city’s encampment team, with two employees to monitor the area within a quarter-mile radius and remove illegal encampments, as permitted by policy
- Conduct a road audit of Gibson and San Mateo to assess conditions, reviewing and prioritizing recommendations “to encourage compliance with traffic laws and pedestrian safety”
- Study current public transportation access to the area and consider potential modifications
Despite the assurance of Family and Community Services Department Director Carol Pierce, there exists real dispute by neighborhood associations in the area that the Good Neighborhood Agreement has been finalized for the Gateway Center. Three neighborhood associations near the planned Gateway Center shelter and services hub have declined to sign the document, saying it did not address some of their chief concerns.
Three associations that have signed the Gateway Good Neighborhood Agreement agreement are the Trumbull Village and South San Pedro Neighborhood Association and the District 6 Neighborhood Association Coalition. However, the Elder Homestead Neighborhood Association, the Siesta Hills Neighborhood Association and the Parkland Hills Neighborhood Association have not signed saying it did not address some of their chief concerns. Talks ended on the agreement in mid-November, at which time Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said the city was done negotiating.
Siesta Hills President Rachel Baca said she and others wanted the city to include a facility capacity limit, a guarantee the city would not permit any sanctioned homeless encampments in the vicinity and language making clear the Gateway will not function as a walk-up meal site. None of those terms are included in the agreement.
The link to the quoted news source is here:
THE GATEWAY CENTER HOMELESS SHELTER
It was on April 6, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller officially announced the city had bought the massive 572,000 square-foot building that has a 201-bed capacity, for $15 million. Keller announced that the massive facility would be transformed into the Gateway Center Homeless Shelter.
Interior demolition and remodeling of the 572,000 square foot building has been going on for a number of months to prepare the facility for a homeless shelter. The ABQ Gateway Center will likely to open sometime in the Spring of 2023. Beds for 50 women are planned for the first phase and for the first responder drop-off is to come online early 2023. The city plans to launch other elements of the 24/7 shelter by next summer. According to the 2022-2023 approved city budget, $1,691,859 has been allocated for various vendors to operate Westside Emergency Shelter Center.
The city is planning to assist an estimated 300 unhoused and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility is intended to serve all populations of men, women, and families. Further, the city wants to provide a place anyone could go regardless of gender, religious affiliation, sobriety, addictions, psychotic condition or other factors.
The city facility is to have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward counseling, addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources. The goal is for the new homeless shelter to provide first responders an alternative destination for the people they encounter known as the “down-and-out” calls.
The city estimates 1,500 people could go through the drop-off each year. The “dropoff for the down and outs” will initially have 4 beds. It is primarily imagined as a funnel into other services. While that likely will include other on-site services, city officials say it will also help move people to a range of other destinations, including different local shelters, or even the Bernalillo County-run CARE Campus, which offers detoxification and other programs.
The city’s plan is to continue adding capacity, with ultimate plan to have a total of 250 emergency shelter beds, and 40 beds for medical sobering and 40 beds for medical respite beds for a total of 330 bed capacity. Counting the other outside providers who lease space inside the building, city officials believe the property’s impact will be significant.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The City’s announcement that it will use the future Gateway Center Homeless shelter for temporary winter “emergency shelter” use beginning on January 10 no doubt took the surrounding neighborhood associations by total surprise. Absent was any discussion as to what extent the Keller Administration reached out to them to go forward to use the facility for temporary winter emergency shelter use before it is even ready to shelter anyone. It is not at all likely that any of the mandates of the “Good Neighborhood Agreement” are in place to operate the facility as an emergency winter shelter.
It’s conduct like this and the lack of communication with affected neighborhoods that has resulted in the Keller Administration being viewed as very heavy handed and incompetent in dealing with the homeless crisis. In August of last year, the City released the Citizen Perception Survey. The survey found that 70% of citizens surveyed rate the city poorly for its performance in dealing with the homeless crisis. This includes 41% who gave city hall the lowest possible rating. Meanwhile, only 9% gave the city’s homelessness response a favorable review. In other words, 7 times more people rate the city poorly on the issue than offer a positive assessment.