Uncovered emails show fight brewing over location for new Albuquerque homeless shelter

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – News 13 has uncovered emails, showing the Chamber of Commerce and the UNM Cancer Center are at odds over where the City of Albuquerque’s new homeless shelter should go.

In the City’s survey, there are only two specific places where Mayor Tim Keller’s $30 million homeless shelter will go. Those are the area of 2nd Street at I-40 near downtown and a large empty lot that borders the UNM Health Sciences Center.

News 13 obtained emails showing groups representing both of those areas do not want it.

“The downtown transformation team has been around for a while,” said Norm Becker, who works for the Chamber of Commerce and leads a team trying to make downtown more appealing.

Brittany Bade: So, the homeless issue downtown is probably the biggest problem you all have in making downtown more attractive?
Becker: I think so

In an email, chamber leaders make it clear they want the homeless shelter to go near the UNM Health Sciences center and ask people to vote for that location on the city survey.

“If it was downtown, the access to services, the behavioral health services, and the mental health services don’t exist downtown. They exist at the UNMH health sciences center,” said Becker.

But in another email, written by the head of the UNM Cancer Center, Dr. Cheryl Willman, she says many of the 400 doctors and staff are concerned about the homeless shelter bordering their offices. She says since they don’t know its design or what access to it will be like, it could cause safety issues.

Becker: I think if they saw what I saw they would say this is not only good but it’s better than what we have today, even if it is in my backyard
Bade: But, you still don’t want it in your backyard?
Becker: Well, downtown. I didn’t say I didn’t want it downtown. There’s no place to put it downtown

But remember, there are proposed locations near downtown, but having the homeless shelter there doesn’t fit with the Chamber’s vision. “I think {the homeless problem} dissuades people from going downtown,” said Becker.

The city’s other options for the shelter are very broad, like the northeast heights, the south valley area, and the north valley area.

As of Friday afternoon, 1,900 people have taken the city’s online survey about the shelter. You have until December 31 to take that survey.

News 13 did reach out to Dr. Willman with UNM for comment, but she was out of the office.

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