Homeless participate in focus groups for shelter location

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city asked the homeless to weigh in on in picking the spot to build the sprawling, 24-hour homeless shelter and their choice is not where people might think.

The 56 homeless women, men and families, who participated in five focus groups, say they want a location that’s safe and close to medical and job training resources.

They pinpointed the old hospital on Gibson as their first choice, followed by the options at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences site, and by Second Street and I-40.

“It’s not only about services, accessibility and transportation to get there, but retail services, like the dollar store, things like that,” Homelessness and Housing Director Carol Pierce said.

“There’s actually already a pretty large homeless population here,” Simon Blair of Albuquerque said when asked about the possible Gibson location. “A lot of them hang out at that park on San Pedro. So, giving them a place to go and actually provide services, I think, would be important.”

“It doesn’t matter what part of the city you’re in. We have a big problem, so I think we need to just get whatever we need,” Jeannine Ortiz of Albuquerque added.

KRQE News 13 asked how the city plans to encourage the homeless to get off the streets and into a shelter, even if it’s in a more out of the way spot like the old Lovelace hospital.

The city said it’s budgeting for more outreach help from partners like Healthcare for the Homeless and Heading Home.

“They can get the treatment that they need, they can begin job hunting,” Pierce added.

But, not everyone is on board.

People in the Parkland Hills neighborhood are lashing out on a neighborhood watch page that it would hurt property values and lead to more crime in the area.

Meanwhile, the city appears focused on building the 300-bed shelter at the UNM site by Lomas and I-25.

“That location, because of the proximity to UNM and behavioral health services,” Pierce said.

The city is still collecting feedback and studying different sites. It plans to pick a location in the next few months so they can break ground later this year.

KRQE News 13 asked the city why there wasn’t a downtown option for the shelter where there’s already a large homeless population.

They say the issue is land availability.

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