ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the many ways the City of Albuquerque has taken to tackle the homeless problem is by handing out housing vouchers. KRQE was allowed to take a look into how they work thanks to the group Heading Home’s ABQ StreetConnect (ABQSC).
ABQSC has helped are Melissa Gonzalez and Leroy Rodriguez. A few months ago, Gonzalez and Rodriguez were living on the streets of Albuquerque. Life had dealt them a hard hand.
“For me, I first started to get homeless when my mom and my sister passed away. I had a job, but then I lost my job, and then I couldn’t find a job, so that got me kicked out,” Rodriguez said.
“It started for me when I was a little kid too. I lost my dad, and I got kicked out of my house, and I went from shelter to shelter,” said Gonzalez.
Everything turned around when they got involved with the ABQSC project. This project aims to help at-risk people get into housing and connects them with resources for mental health substance abuse treatment.
Jennifer Martinez, with Heading Home StreetConnect, said, “We see which ones are needing services immediately, which ones are qualifying for the housing vouchers, and we are pretty much able to immediately able to transition them into housing.”
StreetConnect has helped more than 140 people get into housing since the program launched last year. A high-profile example was when the city closed Coronado Park. Members started by identifying who would be good candidates for the program before handing out housing vouchers to 38 people displaced by the closure. In most cases, StreetConnect can get someone into housing the same day they receive the voucher.
“We reach out to them; we complete the application. They run what they need on their end. It’s a pretty quick turn around. They usually tell us they are passing or not the same day,” Martinez said.
StreetConnect said landlords are often hesitant to accept housing vouchers, but for those who do participate, rent is guaranteed since the city covers it.
The organization also remains engaged with those residents to help them stay focused on getting their life and health back on track. So far, nearly 100% of participants have remained housed.
“One of the great things about our partnership with heading home is that they are so involved and active here on our property and providing that care for people transitioning into housing,” said Jessica Szapacs, who is a Regional Manager for Four Hills Studios.
Gonzalez and Rodriguez said, thanks to this program, they can really focus on their next steps.
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Heading Home has grant money from the city to administer the housing voucher program for the next three to five years.
When the city closed Coronado Park in August, the mayor said everyone there was offered a bed and a roof over their heads whether through the voucher program or a local shelter. About three dozen of them refused the help, however.