ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After making a comment on Instagram that people shouldn’t give directly to the homeless, the head of Heading Home – a homeless shelter that does a lot of work with the city – is in a bit of hot water. Heading Home CEO Steve Decker posted ‘trying to help with handouts makes the problem worse’… Thursday morning during a board meeting. Later, he tried to clear things up.
“I have been torn up inside about this lack of communication on my part because I am not as eloquent as others and I feel like my message went sideways,” said Decker. The social media post on the nonprofit’s Instagram page, which has since been deleted, showed Decker’s statement calling out people who want to help.
Decker says until living on the streets becomes uncomfortable by preventing handouts such as cash, food, water, and clothing, the homeless won’t seek out services. “I think we have an obligation to start getting really serious about changing everything in the system that is broken that creates the cycle of inability to succeed,” added Decker.
Advocates for the homeless, and some of his Heading Home employees, say Decker’s statements do not align with the organization’s mission. “We don’t want to make people so uncomfortable [that] they are sleeping on the ground. I think we can understand it’s not a comfortable lifestyle,” said New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness Executive Director Monet Silva.
Others also expressed their astonishment. “Mr. Decker’s statements have seriously jeopardized the reputation of Heading Home, not only with other providers but with the un-housed themselves,” added homeless advocate Sarah Malone.
Heading Home employee Shannon Dow also expressed her disbelief. “I can no longer be proud to say I work for Heading Home as long as this is the example set by our leadership. In fact, I am embarrassed to say it,” Dow said.
After receiving a blast of scrutiny for his words, Decker issued his apology. “The reality is that I screwed up, pure and simple. I said words that I have never should have said. I apologize to the staff that does this work and is the difference in the daily lives of hundreds upon hundreds of people.” added Decker.
There are calls for Decker to step down, but after today’s meeting, the board said they accepted his apology and Decker will be keeping his job.
Heading Home recently got a contract to run the shelter at the City of Albuquerque’s Gateway Center