ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Frustrated neighbors near Zuni and San Mateo say they are fed up with a growing homeless camp that keeps returning even after the city’s efforts to remove it. Neighbors say the encampments just keep popping back up.
After scorched walls left over by what neighbors say were left over by people lighting fires to stay warm at the vacant lot neighbors say they’re on high alert. “I just saw how much the wall was burnt, the other ones weren’t so bad, this one could have burned down the whole neighborhood.” Wishing to remain anonymous, people who live behind the vacant lot on San Mateo between Southern and Kathryn describe the growing homeless encampment as a revolving door that won’t go away even with city support. “They did come up and clean it up once and I called a few days ago and it just keeps growing.”
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The City of Albuquerque’s Department of Solid Waste says the vacant lot is on private property, requiring notifying the owner of the nuisance it’s become. A spokesperson for the department says after not hearing back from the property owner they sent out cleaning crews, but neighbors say it is still not enough. “Within the week, yeah three or four days they are back maybe one, maybe two, pretty soon seven of them.”
City documents show a developer wants to build 32 apartments at the site, along with retail and office space, but neighbors say they’ve lost their patience. “There are kids who live in this neighborhood, people have worked their whole lives for what they have right there and it could be gone in a few minutes.” “The campfires are going at night, smoke and everything you can hear them coughing, hacking up lungs back there.” Neighbors say they fear moving the encampments will only cause other areas to deal with the same problems.
KRQE reached out to the property owner of the site for comment, but like the city, has also not heard back. The homeless camp at the vacant lot is just a block away from where the city is going to build its new headquarters for the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which response to mental health, addiction and homelessness issues. The city says it hopes to break ground on the complex on San Mateo and Kathryn within a month.