New Mexico Cities Confront Homelessness | The Line

Line Homelessness

February 28, 2020 – Cities throughout New Mexico are dealing with increasing numbers of people living on the streets, in makeshift shelters, or in unstable housing. Gene Grant and The Line opinion panelists look at the crisis for people suffering homelessness and question whether New Mexico cities are taking the best approach to address the issue. 

Line Panelists:
Diane Denish, former NM lieutenant governor
Dan Foley, former state representative
Serge Martinez, professor, UNM School of Law
Diane Snyder, former state senator 

For Further Reading: 

Editorial: Spending priority of legislators, governor ignore homelessness crisis in Albuquerque — Albuquerque Journal 

APD investigates homicide after homeless woman was found dead — KOB 4 

As Webber grapples with homelessness in Santa Fe, homeless man lands at his doorstep  Santa Fe New Mexican 

ABQ’s new homeless shelter? — Albuquerque Journal 

Budget includes small fraction of funds requested for Albuquerque homeless shelter — KRQE Media 

Las Cruces Homelessness, Public Safety Programs Counting on 2020 Census — KRWGnews 

Transcript:

>>GRANT: THE GATEWAY CENTER IS A PLACEMENT FOR ALBUQUERQUE’S EXISTING SHELTER ON THE CITY’S FAR WESTSIDE HAS BEEN APPROVED. NOW THE BIG QUESTION, WHERE TO PUT IT. AS ALBUQUERQUE GRAPPLES WITH NIMBY, NOT IN MY BACK YARD OPPOSITION, SANTA FE IS ALSO DEALING WITH PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS. LAS CRUCES, FARMINGTON TAOS ARE ALSO DEALING DEAL WITH HOW TO BEST ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS. DIANE, DO YOU THINK NEW MEXICO CITIES ARE DOING AN ADEQUATE JOB AS YOU HAVE BEEN READING UP FOR THIS SEGMENT? WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OVERALL ON HOW THE BIGGER CITIES ARE HANDLING HOMELESSNESS?

>>SNYDER: I DON’T THINK SO. I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE ARTICLE THAT TALKED ABOUT WHAT SANTA FE IS DOING. THEY ARE USING A PROGRAM CALLED BUILD FOR ZERO. WHICH IS BEING DONE AND THERE ARE SEVERAL STATES, CITIES IN DIFFERENT STATES THAT HAVE GOTTEN THEIR POPULATION DOWN TO ZERO OR FUNCTIONALLY ZERO. WHAT THEY DO IS THEY DIVIDE IT UP. YOU HAVE THE CONTINUOUSLY HOMELESS, THE MILITARY HOMELESS, OTHER DIVISIONS. AND THEY TAKE EACH SEGMENT AND SOLVE THAT PROBLEM FIRST. INSTEAD OF BLANKETLY SPREADING ALL THEIR RESOURCES. THEY SOLVE A PROBLEM AT A TIME. SANTA FE STARTED WITH THEIR MILITARY AND THEY ARE NOW AT WHAT THEY CALL FUNCTIONALLY ZERO OF HOMELESS MILITARY. THAT IMPRESSED ME VERY MUCH. I WAS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THIS CONTINUOUS HARANGUING ABOUT WHERE THE PLACE IS GOING TO BE IN ALBUQUERQUE. I MEAN, WE SPENT MORE TIME TALKING ABOUT WHERE IT IS GOING TO BE LOCATED RATHER THAN GETTING IT BUILT, DESIGNED, BUILT AND MOVING FORWARD. I UNDERSTAND NIMBY AND MY NEIGHBORHOOD DOESN’T HAPPEN TO BE ONE OF THE ONES SUGGESTED, BUT I STILL THINK IF WE LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE, WE’RE WASTING SO MUCH TIME AT DOING WHAT WE NEED TO BE DOING AND IT SEEMS LIKE WE ARE DOING SUCH SHOTGUN ATTACKS TO THE ISSUE THAT WE ARE NOT REALLY GETTING THINGS FOCUSED.

>>GRANT: INTERESTING POINT. SERGE, WE FOUND MONEY IN LEGISLATURE FOR PRACTICE FIELDS, OTHER THINGS, BUT WE CAN ONLY COME UP WITH 50 GRAND OUT OF THE 14 MILLION-DOLLAR ASK FOR THE HOMELESS SHELTER. WE ARE GOING TO PRESS ON WITH THIS ANYWAY, THE CITY HAS A PLAN, THEY’LL GO BACK NEXT YEAR. YOUR SENSE HOW YOU SEE THE CITY APPROACHING THIS, HOW WE GET OUT OF THIS MESS?

>>MARTINEZ: I LOVE THAT THE CITY HAS MADE THIS — KELLER HAS SAID, I AM GOING TO TRY TO JUMP ON THIS. BUT, SAYING, YOU KNOW, WE NEED EX MILLIONS FOR A SHELTER THAT IS NOT THE CURE-ALL EITHER. THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS PEOPLE ARE HOMELESS AND SO MANY THINGS THAT WE NEED TO ADDRESS. I AM A HOUSING FIRST GUY, RIGHT. THE BEST SOLUTION TO HOMELESSNESS IS GET SOMEONE A HOME BUT SIMPLY SAYING LET’S BUILD ONE BIG GATEWAY STRUCTURE IN ALBUQUERQUE, I LOVE THE IDEA OF LET’S PUT ALL THESE RESOURCES TOGETHER BUT IT IS EASY TO SAY, WELL WE DID THAT SO NOW WE DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. I AM NOT — CERTAINLY DON’T THINK THAT IS GOING TO END HOMELESSNESS HERE IN ALBUQUERQUE OR ANYWHERE IN NEW MEXICO. LIKE DIANE WAS SAYING, WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IS A COMMITTED EFFORT BY EVERYBODY AND THAT IS WHAT THE LEGISLATURE IS NOT SAYING, THIS IS IMPORTANT TO US, AND THAT IS A BIG MESSAGE, RIGHT? HOUSING FOR VETERANS I WOULDN’T SAY IS EASY BUT THERE ARE A LOT MORE RESOURCES FOR HOMELESS VETS THAN FOR A HOMELESS PERSON NOT A VET. YOU HAVE FEDERAL SOURCES, THAT YOU DON’T HAVE AVAILABLE. DOING LOW HANGING FRUIT FIRST IS GREAT. HOUSTON HAS DONE A GOOD JOB AND STARTED WITH HOUSING FOR HEROS AND THEY HAVE DONE THE SAME THING, TRIED TO WORK THEIR WAY DOWN, BUT WHAT WE SEE IS EFFECTIVE IS REAL COMMITMENT FROM EVERYBODY. AND SO IF WE ARE SAYING, WELL, THAT HAPPENS IN ALBUQUERQUE, THAT IS A BIG CITY PROBLEM, AND WE ARE GOING TO PUT IT ALL IN THIS ONE PLACE, THAT IS NEVER GOING TO WORK.

>>GRANT: AS I READ ABOUT THIS, THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN, THE STORY ABOUT THIS FELLOW THAT WAS AROUND THE MAYOR’S OFFICE FOR WEEKS AND WEEKS, TRACY LEE, 62 YEAR OLD HOMELESS MAN, STARTED HANGING OUT AT CITY HALL. THE SENATOR’S POINT ABOUT THIS, IT JUST ILLUSTRATES THE DIFFICULTY ON EACH INDIVIDUAL BASIS. NO ONE PROGRAM IS GOING TO WORK FOR EVERYBODY OUT THERE AS SERGE WAS MENTIONING. WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OF HOW WE ARE GETTING DOWN TO THE GRASS ROOTS HERE AND SOLVING THIS PROBLEM?

>>DENISH: LET ME SAY I THINK MAYOR HAS THE RIGHT IDEA TO TAKE THIS APPROACH. I HAVE BEEN TO SOME OF THE FORUMS ABOUT LOCATION AND IT IS AMAZING TO ME HOW PEOPLE EQUATE HOMELESSNESS WITH CRIMINALITY WHICH IS REALLY NOT WHAT HAPPENS. BUT I WANT TO SAY, I THINK THERE IS TWO OR THREE THINGS, I THINK LOCAL NEWSPAPERS DIDN’T GET IT EXACTLY RIGHT. THE MAYOR HAD PRIORITIES AND HOMELESSNESS WAS NOT THE HIGHEST ONE AND SO THE CRIME PACKAGE WAS VERY HIGH ON HIS LIST.  SOME LEGISLATORS THAT I TALKED TO DIDN’T SEE HOPELESSNESS ON THE ALBUQUERQUE PRIORITY LIST. I AM NOT SURE THAT IT WAS ENTIRELY THE LEGISLATURE’S FAULT FOR NOT GIVING THE MONEY.

>>GRANT: THEY GAVE MILLIONS FOR THE CRIME STUFF.

>>DENISH: THAT IS THE NO. 1 ISSUE IN ALBUQUERQUE. THE PLAN THAT ALBUQUERQUE HAS, THERE IS NOT CONSENSUS AROUND THAT PLAN. AND I THINK ONE LARGE SHELTER, THEY HAVE GOT A PROPOSED SITE NOT FAR FROM THE STUDIO, AND THAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE UNIVERSITY WITH THE GROWTH OF THE CANCER CENTER. THE COUNTY HAS BEEN ASKED FOR SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. I DON’T THINK THEY ARE IN AGREEMENT ON THE 300 BED FACILITY. SO, I THINK THAT THE PLAN ITSELF DOESN’T HAVE CONSENSUS. VOTERS WERE NOT GIVEN SPECIFICS ABOUT THE PLAN. IT WAS FOR A FACILITY. I AM GLAD THEY ARE INCLUDING NEIGHBORHOODS AND TRYING TO GET THAT BUT THINGS ARE NOT CONSOLIDATED YET AND THEY NEED TO — I THINK I HEARD THAT FROM LEGISLATORS. THEY DIDN’T FEEL LIKE THE PLAN WAS SPECIFIC AND SOLIDIFIED.

>>GRANT: I CAN SEE THAT.

>>SNYDER: THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO START WITH, 14 MILLION. THEY HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY AND THAT IS WHAT I HEARD FROM LEGISLATORS WAS, BECAUSE MY THOUGHT WAS, LIKE EVERYBODY. WHAT? YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT HOMELESSNESS, BUT THEY DO, BUT THEY SAID, YOU KNOW, YOU’RE NOT READY TO HAVE OUR MONEY. YOU DO YOUR DESIGN, YOU DO YOUR — CONSOLIDATE YOUR PLAN, AS THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR SAID.

>>DENISH: THE OTHER THING WE CAN’T DO IS DO A HALF-BAKED CENTER.

>>GRANT: LET ME ASK A QUESTION ON THAT VERY THOUGHT. THE IDEA OF TAKING AN OLD HOTEL WHICH HAS BEEN FLOATED OUT THERE AND USING THAT AS A HOMELESS CENTER, RIGHT BY THE HIGHWAY. AND I FORGET THE ROAD, NOT CARLISLE BUT MENAUL. THAT SENT PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK INTO A TIZZY, YOU KNOW. IT FELT SORT OF PIE IN THE SKY. WHY WERE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS. IS THAT PART OF THE PROBLEM?

>>FOLEY: WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY IMPACT ON HOMELESSNESS UNTIL YOU TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. WE TALK ABOUT HOMELESS VETS AND CRIME, MENTAL HEALTH. THE OTHER THING IS, I WOULD SUBMIT, HAVING GROWN UP IN CLOUDCROFT, LIVED IN ROSWELL, LIVED IN PORTALES AND NOW IN RIO RANCHO, THE HOMELESS PROBLEM IN ALBUQUERQUE IS A STATE-WIDE PROBLEM. IT IS NOT A CITY PROBLEM. IT IS A STATE-WIDE PROBLEM. THE RESOURCES ARE HERE AND THE COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE, THIS IS WHERE THEY SEND THE FOLKS TO GET HELP ONCE THEY GET IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OR SOMETHING DOWN IN ROSWELL, THEY ARE BUSSED TO ALBUQUERQUE TO GET HELP, AND THEN TURNED OUT ON THE STREETS WHEN IT’S OVER.  I THINK UNTIL WE TAKE A AN APPROACH TO SAY — TO YOUR POINT ABOUT THE HOTEL, IF YOU BELIEVE THE ONLY THING SOMEONE NEEDS IS A PLACE TO LAY THEIR HEAD AND THAT WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEMS, THAT IS A GREAT ANSWER. IF BELIEVE THERE ARE FAR MORE ISSUES TO HOMELESSNESS, TO INCLUDE CHILDREN, FAMILIES, BREAKING THE CYCLE, VIOLENCE, THE DRUG ADDICTION, THE MENTAL HEALTH STUFF, THEY HAVE GOT TO COME UP WITH A HOLISTIC APPROACH THAT SAYS WE ARE GOING TO GET PEOPLE OUT OF HERE. AND THE LAST THING I’LL SAY IS, IT TAKES MORE THAN 300 BEDS, A LOT MORE THAN 300 BEDS.

>>DENISH: BUY A HOTEL FOR 15 MILLION AND IT BECOMES LIKE THE COUNTY BUILDING, ANOTHER 1,5 TO 30 MILLION TO RENOVATE IT. IT IS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM.

>>GRANT: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL NUMBER FOR HOW MANY BEDS? IT IS NOT 300, HOW MANY BEDS DO WE REALLY NEED?

>>MARTINEZ: 3,000. I SPEND A LOT OF TIME INTERACTING WITH A POPULATION THAT IS NOT HOMELESS, PRECARIOUSLY HOUSED AND TRANSIENT. IT IS WAY MORE THAN 300.  I AM SURE I AM NOT SEEING –

>>GRANT: THAT IS ALL THE TIME WE HAVE FOR THIS WEEK. THANKS TO EVERYONE HERE STUDYING UP ON THOUGHTS. DON’T FORGET TO CATCH UP WITH US ON SOCIAL MEDIA, ESPECIALLY FACEBOOK WHERE WE OFTEN POLL OUR FOCUS ON NEW MEXICO GROUP TO FIGURE OUT TOPICS WE DO EACH WEEK.

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