ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – There is a new proposal to keep the homeless in New Mexico from using the streets as a restroom. It is an idea that is already working in other big cities.
A state lawmaker wants to put a mobile shower and bathroom on the streets of New Mexico. Specifically, she says, she had Bernalillo County in mind when she brought it up at the Roundhouse.
Near the Rail Yards in downtown Albuquerque, a Tent City for the homeless came to an end after concerns over safety and sanitation, but the work necessary to serve that population is far from over.
“The role here is to survive,” says Jack Russell Delorme.
One of the most basic needs: A place to use the restroom.
“To be honest with you, I’ve seen people go literally anywhere and I mean anywhere,” Russell Delorme says. “Literally out in the open, anywhere.”
Residents in downtown have seen evidence of that.
One neighbor resorted to putting up a sign, pleading with people not to use his front yard as a restroom. He took it down after a few months when it didn’t seem to help the problem. In fact, things got worse at the height of Tent City.
“It was a mess,” says Bruce Davis, a neighbor. “People had to use the street or my yard or whatever for a toilet.”
“A lot of times they’ll come into my church and ask me if they can wash up in the bathroom,” says Alfonso Antillon, the senior pastor at Majesty Worship Center.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Maez is proposing a bill that could address those concerns. It calls for a bus with showers and restrooms for the homeless, similar to what has been done in San Francisco. It would devote $200,000 to run a one-year pilot program in a county like Bernalillo. The bus would be kept clean and simply travel to places as needed.
Whether it’s the right answer, well, it depends who you ask.
“It is a bright idea because it’s needed. We do have a homeless crisis here in Albuquerque,” Russell Delorme says.
“The mobile sanitation seems like the humane thing to do, but it seems far from the solution,” Davis says.
In San Francisco, a nonprofit put its first bus on the road in July. It was such a success there that they are working on a second bus now. Programs like this have also popped up out of the country in Singapore and Brazil.