ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A stretch of land along I-40 on Albuquerque’s west side appears to be a revolving door of homeless camps. It could stay that way, for now, because of who owns the land. Eastbound drivers on I-40 near 98th St. are being greeted into Albuquerque by an RV camped on the dirt shoulder, along with piles of trash and a smaller trailer and red sedan nearby.
“It’s pretty sad. We all kind of looked out the window and noticed that, ‘wow these people are living in a field,'” said Jason Hespe of California.
“It’s gotten worse since COVID occurred. Way worse,” Vista Scott of Albuquerque added. KRQE’s News Tracker saw two people at the camp on Tuesday.
“It is sad,” Scott stated. “Nobody really knows what’s going on with those individuals.”
Neighbors on social media say pop-up camps there has been a long-time problem. Just a couple of weeks ago, an anonymous poster said people who take the route daily are getting tired of seeing the cars and personal belongings out in the open.
“I’m working with multiple agencies and departments to address homelessness in the area, from the department of transportation to code enforcement,” Albuquerque City Councilor Lan Sena explained.
However, one major speed bump: a city official said a portion of that land is privately owned by the group 98th and I-40 Land LLC. The mayor’s office said since the camp is on private property, it can’t clean it up even if it gets a 311 complaint.
“It’s a revolving door and it’s a public health issue,” Sena said. The New Mexico Department of Transportation typically works closely with the city to help clean up illegal camps along the interstates once they’ve been vacated. However, in this situation, that’s not the case because of the jurisdictional issue.
“I just don’t see any kind of solution in the near future,” Hespe stated. Moving forward, Councilor Sena said the city is still taking action, but it’s a waiting game.
“Code enforcement has tried contacting the property owner and now a notice of violation has been sent,” she said Wednesday night.
It’s unclear when that notice of violation was sent. If the property owner does not respond, the city could take them to court. Councilor Sena said the city is also working to get in contact with the people camping at that location to try to connect them with services.