BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Janet Montaño, the owner of La Dos Gringas restaurant in Belen, finds sleeping bags from the homeless most days in her parking lot. “They got their bedding down; they’re asleep; they’re storing their belongings here,” Montaño said.
She’s not alone. A handful of businesses in Belen are trying to fend off the homeless. It’s something the Belen Police Department is well aware of.
“We have received reports of people sleeping in doorways, doorways of businesses. We have had reports that when people are coming to work or leaving to go home from work, they have been approached by the homeless. In some instances, they have been accosted by the homeless,” Chief James Harris said.
Harris said the problem started recently after the City of Albuquerque shut down and fenced off Coronado Park, which for years was home to a massive homeless camp.
“A lot of those individuals began to move down, either north or south. Most of them are taking the Rail Runner Train and coming down to this area, and of course, this is where the train ends.”
However, the homeless are not just congregating around the train station. Harris explained they scatter all throughout the city. It’s a problem the mayor said the city has never dealt with before.
“This is newer and unchartered territory for us because there’s just been such a recent increase in the number of homeless,” Mayor Robert Noblin said.
Chief Harris admitted the department doesn’t know how to tackle the problem, and they don’t have the budget or resources other cities like Albuquerque have. That’s why now, they’re looking to the community for help. Thursday evening, the city held a town hall to discuss possible solutions.
For Montaño, the short-term solution could be beefing up security if the homeless continue to hang around her restaurant. “I don’t know when they will per se ‘lose it,’ and they vandalize the building.”
Mayor Noblin said a homeless shelter, somewhere in the county, could be a long-term goal. Residents spoke both for and against that idea in the town hall.