ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Four months since the city officials closed Coronado Park, a homeless man is suing the City of Albuquerque, with the help of the ACLU, for forcing him out. He claims the city’s actions have left him and others even more vulnerable.
They’re asking a judge to force the city to stop tearing down homeless camps. “They said it was a safe space, it was a community. People looked out for one another, they made sure that their belongings were protected,” said Ives and Flores Attorney, Laura Schauer-Ives.
Ives and Flores, along with the ACLU, New Mexico Center of Law and Poverty, and Attorney Nick Davis, have filed the lawsuit against the city saying the city’s attempt to address homelessness at the park only resulted in the destruction of people’s most prized possessions. “To lose everything – for the City of Albuquerque to destroy everything they have left, especially family photos that are irreplaceable, but also tents and bed rolls. The things they need to live, just basic things they need to live,” added Schauer-Ives.
Mayor Tim Keller recently vetoed an ordinance to remove the term ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’ from all city documents. Deeming them “legal” is one of Keller’s solutions to help address homelessness in Albuquerque.
When KRQE asked the mayor earlier this week about the controversial Safe Outdoor Spaces and what he would tell people living next to the proposed city-sanctioned encampments, Keller said, “Some places make sense for them and some don’t. Right now, there are zero. So I don’t think this is going anywhere fast anywhere in our city and we’re not spending a lot of time and effort on it. We’re just asking for the flexibility to experiment.”
With three areas already given the green light to become Safe Outdoor Spaces for the homeless, neighbors say the city-sanctioned encampments will only worsen their problems. “It’s really destroying the city and we are having a lot of problems with them. They know this isn’t the right place for a tent for the homeless. It’s inhumane and they know it and they still want to place it here,” said Martineztown Neighborhood Association President Loretta Naranjo-Lopez.
The complaint also states the homeless in the park want compensation for their personal possessions. The city says it has not received a copy of the lawsuit, and it does not comment on pending litigation.
City officials say many people from Coronado Park did accept services prior to closing the park.
“The City and our partner organizations conducted weeks of intensive outreach, service offerings, and notice, prior to closing Coronado Park. 72 people were connected to services, including local shelters, motel vouchers, pathways to permanent housing, personal storage, and medical treatment. Coronado Park had become a hub for narcotic usage, trafficking and organized crime. Closing the park was the right thing to do. People living there deserved better, safer alternatives, and connecting people with the help they needed was our priority. The City is investing more money than ever in solutions to reduce chronic homelessness and create affordable housing.”City of Albuquerque Family & Community Services Department