ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque’s incoming Gateway Center is expected to open in the winter of 2022. KRQE News 13 has learned what the people who would use the shelter would like to see there.
According to the city, there are more than 5,600 households experiencing homelessness. It held workshops with 28 people experiencing homelessness, with a special effort to connect with LGBTQ+ and Native American demographics. The city said these populations are disproportionately represented among the homeless population.
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“We had members who were participating in this activity who you know, teared up, who became emotional because nobody had ever asked them what they wanted in a shelter. It was built things on them, rather than build with them,” said Cristina Parajon, Gateway Administrator for the city’s Department of Family and Community Services.
Using Legos, markers, and written prompts, the participants were asked what they’d like to see at the ‘trauma-informed center. “Trauma-informed has been the big driver for the way that we’re developing the Gateway Center. We want to create a space where people can heal because trauma-informed says if you’re not relaxed or you don’t feel safe in a space, it’s going to be hard for you to access services where you can get back up on your feet,” said Parajon.
Respondents showed they don’t just want a roof over their heads, but a place with communities and activities. People said they want some freedom like the ability to rearrange the furniture in their room, have a pet in the shelter, family visits, and even the option to sleep outside if inside feels too “stuffy.”
They also want programmings like movie screenings, grills, campfires, an area with weights, and even a sweat lodge to connect with culture. “They wanted a place where they could have activities. A lot of them reference these activities of helping them… like not having bad thoughts come up or not having a reason to fight,” said Parajon.
Native American and LGBTQ+ participants emphasized the need for education within the facilities and private bathroom options. The Gateway Center is eventually expected to house 100 single adults and up to 25 families. Parajon said the city has already passed along the recommendations to the architect and will work with the service provider operating the shelter to see which activities are viable and which may need to come down the road.
The city said it’s almost done with phase one demolition and is still working on finding who will run the shelter.