Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are getting ready to spend millions of dollars on a state-of-the-art project they hope can help get the most chronically homeless people off the streets for good.
The idea is to build an all-in-one, 24-7 campus-like housing complex where people can live and get medical and social services on site.
As homelessness remains a pronounced issue in Albuquerque, local leaders say they’re ready to try something different.
“This is going to be huge for our community,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, director of the Department of Behavioral Health Services for Bernalillo County. “It’s going to be so impactful.”
The joint city and county homeless housing project is currently under a “request for proposals” process. If built, it would be a first for New Mexico.
The project calls for developers to come up with a plan to build a 40-unit, apartment-style complex in Albuquerque that offers permanent housing alongside on-site professional medical and social help for its tenants.
The expectation is that the facility will be home for those who are chronically homeless and may deal with mental illness or substance abuse.
According to the project RFP, the “priority population” will include individuals in four criteria including homelessness or severe housing instability, frequent admission to MDC’s psychiatric unit, frequent utilization of detox services, and frequent use of emergency medical service for behavioral health needs.
“What we intend to do here is have more intensive case management and supports for these individuals that they can access 24-hours a day,” said Hotrum-Lopez.
“It’s a way for us to really help folks stay housed, thrive and you know, succeed,” said Lisa Huval, deputy director of Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services Department.
Huval says similar “full service” housing projects have worked in communities like Denver.
“Housing folks with serious behavioral health issues who need housing and on-site supportive services to really be successful,” said Huval.
The city and the county are also asking for a developer to figure out the best site for the housing project. The ideas are due by June 4, 2018.
“This is a good investment,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, speaking of the project.
The commissioner says the project is the right next step in figuring out new solutions for homelessness.
“We can’t keep going down the same path that we’ve been on for years, we’re beginning to see, there has to be an investment that will eventually have a really significant payoff,” said Hart Stebbins.
So far, the city of Albuquerque says no one has submitted proposals to build the project, but they expect to get some submissions in as the deadline gets closer.
All the money for the project comes from taxpayers. The county’s $2 million share is from the voter-approved sales tax increase for behavioral health programs. The city’s $1.97 million share came from existing city funds.