Gibson Gateway Homeless Shelter Opens Temporarily For Winter Emergency Shelter; “Catch And Release” Winter Shelter Philosophy Needs Ongoing Outreach And Services To Have Impact

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”  beginning on January 10.  The location is the former  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.


On January 10, Mayor Tim Keller accompanied Family and Community Services administrators, NM state Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino and the Heading Home Executive Director announced the limited opening on an emergency basis of the Gibson Health Center as the new Gateway Center homeless shelter.

The city quickly opened homeless shelter in the old Lovelace Hospital only temporarily for a few months to get emergency shelter to the unhoused during the harshest winter months. The temporary emergency shelter will run only until April. The winter emergency beds is effectively a “pilot project” of the Gateway Center until the facility is ready to open more broadly.

The city also announced a 3million dollar donation to the Gateway Center project from Western Sky Community Care. The company provides health insurance to Medicaid, Medicare and the BeWell New Mexico marketplace. The money is expected to address “cultural care aspects” the city says it will rope into services at the Gateway Center. A deputy director with the city’s Family and Community Services Department, Gilbert Ramirez highlighted the urban Native American population as an in-need focus group within the community.

“We know from data our team has collected, about 40% of the unhoused population identifies as Native American, yet out 20% of them can be documented as actually utilizing shelter services in our city. … We’re doing something wrong if we’re not serving everyone.”

The opening represents the city’s first overnight operations of the new Gateway Center.  The current operation has 60 beds with 35 designated for women and 25 for men in separate buildings at the facility.  According Heading Home Chief Executive Officer Steve Decker, the shelter will be full by the end of this month.  The formal opening of the Bottom of Form

Gateway” Shelter will occur this spring with beds for 50 women. Work will continue on primary elements of the shelter.  Other on-site services that will open include a sobering center and a “medical respite” unit for unhoused people recovering from illness and injury.

Unhoused clients must have referrals from service providers and arrived at the shelter in the late afternoon and get bused out each morning. There are no
walk-ins allowed. The center was opened very quickly with only 2 weeks to hire the 25 people needed to run it.  Gateway Center guests are allowed to stay until 8 a.m. the following day after they’ve checked in. Bathrooms, portable showers, personal storage and food is available to overnight guests at the shelter.

Those seeking housing have to be entered into the local “Homeless Management Information System,” known as HMIS. Referrals are made by  the city’s Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS), and partner non-profits like First Nations, HopeWorks, or Heading Home’s Street Connect program.  The city announced Friday the referral process is now open to “all” of its providers

Those overseeing referral processes can choose to send people to the city’s new overnight shelter or other programs. So far, the city says it has seen 60% men and 40% women at the Gateway Center. Guests have to be 18 and older, checking in as early at 4:30 p.m.

Gateway administrator Cristina Parajón said this:

“Our team was nimble and able to convert this space, and it will likely remain open until April, until then, [when] we’re able to shift upstairs to the Gateway program. … There will be many members that may want to shift upstairs, as well.”

“Next week outside it’s going to be 21 degrees at nighttime. … We want to ensure we’re doing our best with every facility … These emergency winter beds are about keeping people alive. … Next week, outside, it’s going to be 21 degrees at night time …  The [referral] waiting time … is about 24 hours. … We try to make that as quick as possible, processing those referrals, we do make sure the bed is ready and the linens are there.”

Mayor Tim Keller said the city aims to serve “1,000 people a day” at the center for housing and medical related needs. Roughly 300 people are already use the Gateway Center facility, most accessing co-located medical offices.  According to Keller, by April, Keller the city hopes the Gateway Center will help “at least 500 people a day” at the facility. “That’s in combination from our initial 50 beds that are probably going to open early summer, that includes our emergency shelter which is open now.”

Mayor Keller said the city will be asking for funding for the Gateway Center project during the 2023 legislative session.  The city says it will ask for $20 million from the state to continue building out the second phase of the site.


On January 4, 2022, the city announced that on January 10, the Gateway shelter will open for “emergency shelter” use.   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.    The city said the emergency shelter is needed as an alternative to the existing West Side where the unhoused refuse to go.  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, and then to operate elements of the Gateway Center for three months after that.

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:


The city efforts to open up the Gateway Center for temporary winter “emergency shelter” is absolutely necessary and commendable. 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.  It will likely save more than a few lives with some of the harshest winter months still ahead.

The one obvious defect of the approach is that the unhoused will be transported to the site in the late afternoon and then bused out the next morning.  It’s an approach that is tantamount to a “catch and release” approach. The onset of Albuquerque’s harsh winter months no doubt will be a major incentive for the chronically homeless, defined as those that have lived on the street for six month or more who suffer from mental illness, to use both the Gateway Way Shelter as well as the city’s Westside Shelter.

In fiscal year 2021 the city spent $35,145,851 and in 2022   $59,498,915 on unhoused services and programs including 2 shelters and subsidized housing. During the city’s Winter months, the city’s outreach is very  successful as is evidenced by how quickly the Gateway Center is filling up.

However, Spring and Summer is likely when the unhoused will want return to the streets.  When the unhoused refuse assistance, the city can do nothing.   Unhoused cannot be forced to take their medications or seek drug treatment.  The city’s outreach and service efforts need to be ongoing to convince the unhoused who take advantage of the temporary  winter shelter that there are indeed better options than living on the streets.

The City needs to offer the Gateway for more than an overnight, “catch and release” overnight  stay program  and do it best to convince  unhoused who use it now to also take advantage of the other services available.


This entry was posted in Opinions by . Bookmark the permalink.


Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.