ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the cold weather moves in there’s a push to get the homeless into shelters and we’re learning there are a whole lot more of them. According to a report by the New Mexico Coalition to End homelessness, over the last five years, the number of people living on the streets has gone from nearly 200 to more than 400.
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“We’re talking about the number of people experiencing homelessness who are not using shelters so who are staying outside in unsheltered locations. This is a count that we work with the coalition to end homelessness that we do every two years at the end of January,” said Housing and Homeless Deputy Director Lisa Huval.
On the night of Jan. 25 of this year, the city counted people living on the streets, in parks and alleys, or the bosque and found there were 413 of those unsheltered individuals. People living in a shelter or transitional facilities are not included in those numbers.
During the same time in 2019, 567 homeless people were counted on the street, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there was a drop this year. We are currently dealing with the pandemic and that had an impact on how information was gathered, making it more difficult to get an accurate count.
KRQE News 13 asked why someone would stay on the streets, rather than go to a shelter. “We’ve had many people in our community experiencing homelessness that have experienced trauma in their past that make it difficult to stay in a large congregate setting like that. Also, many folks are struggling with mental health issues that can also make a congregate setting like that a challenging place to stay,” said Huval.
According to the report, 30% of homeless people surveyed have a serious mental illness, while 25% struggle with substance abuse. The westside shelter in recent weeks has seen between 250 to 350 people a night but that number increases significantly in the colder months.
That also means the numbers we reported of unsheltered homeless are much higher in the summer when the shelters are utilized less. The shelter is open 24/7. There are shuttles to and from the facility available at different locations around town.