ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A groundbreaking took place Wednesday on a complex that will house and treat homeless veterans in Albuquerque. However, the idea is being met with some resistance from the adjacent neighborhood.

The dirt lot near I-25 and Gibson may not look like much now, but it will become a place where homeless veterans can get back on their feet. While the Kirtland Community Association said they’re on board with the idea, they don’t want the facility in their neighborhood.

The Veterans Integration Centers (VIC) hopes to transform the area into a bustling community by May of 2024.

VIC CEO Brock Wolff explained they want to install transitional housing that helps veterans struggling with PTSD, substance abuse, or life skills. The process starts with transitional housing with the hope of eventually moving the veterans to permanent residences.

The three-acre campus near I-25 and Gibson will include a shelter with 42 beds and 33 units of low-income housing for veterans. There will be a walking track, food pantry, donation center, and a gym—along with on-site mental health and substance abuse treatment.

“In March of last year, we got a $3.2 million dollar grant from the VA, and then just this year the county stepped forward with $3.5 million, and then we made an effort to work with HUD through the city to secure the funding of just over a million dollars to purchase the land here,” Wolff said.

While the idea is to foster a community for veterans there, the nearby community that already exists is not on board.

The vice president of the Kirtland Community Association Leslee Horn said they’ve tried to stop this project, but no one has listened to them.

“We are in full support of the Veterans Integration Centers project. We support our vets; it’s a wonderful project. We do not support its location here in our neighborhood,” Horn said, “We feel that we have not had a say in this process from the very beginning. There’s homelessness everywhere. They’re not putting it in the country club area. They’re not putting it in the Northeast Heights. They’re not putting it in Tanoan – some of those more affluent neighborhoods. They’re putting it in areas that, historically, have been low income.”

“This is also coming on the end of projects such as the Hawthorne—the homeless wellness shelter—where we had an influx of crime. The city did not let us know that that project was coming over here. We also had an SOS that was proposed for one of the churches in our community, and they were trying to put it over here without our input and say, and unfortunately, this is the third item, or the third project, that has been proposed here that, even though it has great services helping out homeless veterans and their families, unfortunately, it is not a benefit to our community and our neighborhood, and we were not asked, ‘How do you feel about it being in your neighborhood,'” Horn stated.

Horn claimed they also were not made fully aware of the process, “We had a meet and greet with the Veterans Integration Center and then we had another meeting with them where they proposed a ‘good neighbor agreement,’ which is something similar to what they proposed to the community where the Gateway Center is. However, the meetings that matter in this process, our facilitated meeting, we have not had that yet, and that meeting was pushed, and we feel like it was an effort by the city to help the Veterans Integration Center move their project forward without us really knowing about it.”

However, the lot is zoned for mixed-use, meaning a campus like this is permitted there.

“When you find out this is going to be a secured facility, gated area, we’re going to have all the security cameras. We’re going to be great neighbors,” Wolff said, “We’re going to enhance the property values of this community, and we’re going to continue to meet with them, and we are going to be the best neighbors they ever had.”

The Kirtland Community Association said they do have a meeting scheduled with VIC coming up in April. Wolff said they hope to hold their grand opening on July 4, 2024.

The entire project comes with a price tag of $17 million. Wolff said they’ve already raised $9.5 million.