ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller is asking voters to approve $14 million in bond money to pay for a new homeless center. But there’s still a lot of unknowns, including where it would be located.
The mayor says you can see it all around the city. On any given night, 1,500 homeless people live in Albuquerque. He says if voters don’t fund a new shelter, it’s not going to get any better.
The mayor is proposing a $14 million centralized homeless shelter that would provide job training and behavioral health and treatment services for 300 people. Voters will find it on the ballot in Bond Question 2, tied in with more than $21 million in GO Bonds to improve senior and community centers.
When asked if combining the proposals into one bond issue is potentially hurting those community centers, Mayor Keller responded, “Our city already spends $20 million-plus out of that department for homeless services, so that’s actually where it belongs.”
Another big question concerns the new shelter’s possible location. At a recent public meeting, citizens wanted to know where the shelter will be built. The mayor says experts will scout out different locations that will go through public comment and city council.
When asked whether or not it’s fair to ask people to fund the project when they don’t know where it’s going to be built, the mayor responded, “It is. It’s kind of the chicken and the egg. You either have to fund it first or tell people where it’s going to be located first.”
The mayor says it’s better to have the funding first, and they’ll ask the state to match it. If voters approve the shelter next month, it will not raise taxes.
“No one wants anything uncomfortable in their neighborhood and I’m no different. Everyone feels that way, but our city has to step up and deal with these challenges,” the mayor said.
Tying big projects together on the ballot doesn’t always work. Voters previously shot down funding for fixing the interchange at Paseo del Norte and I-25 after Mayor Berry combined it with a sports complex he wanted.
The city does have an emergency shelter on its far westside, but it’s 20 miles from downtown and costs the city $1 million every year to transport people back and forth.