At a holiday party in a city office building Wednesday, Glen White invited other party-goers to his apartment for Christmas dinner.
The 52-year-old is planning to cook up a 25-pound turkey and his grandmother’s cream cheese pie, so he declared that he “better find some friends” to help him eat.
Until this month, White did not have a kitchen in which to cook. He was homeless, as were many of the other party attendees.
The party was for participants in a program called Heading Home, an initiative spearheaded by Mayor Richard Berry to house some of Albuquerque’s most vulnerable homeless people in apartments or rental units.
“If I stayed out on the streets, I’d be dead by the end of this winter,” White said during a group talk with the mayor. “I’m very grateful that I’m inside and I have a house.”
After nearly two years, 146 people — 160 including children and family members — have been housed through the program. Of those, 10 have left the program and four have died. That exceeds the program’s target retention rate, said Robin Dozier Otten, director of the city’s Family and Community Services.
The city’s goal was to house 75 people at the end of the first year and 166 by the end of the second year. The program met its first-year goal and is on pace to meet the second-year goal by Feb. 1, the program’s anniversary.
The initiative operates under a “housing first” approach. It doesn’t make drug or alcohol treatment a condition of housing. Participants must pay 30 percent of their income toward rent and meet the conditions of their lease.
“The thing I’m hearing, that is most heartwarming to me, is that it becomes a stabilizing factor,” Berry said to the group.
The program is funded through city, federal and private money. Dennis Plummer, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Homelessness Project, estimates it costs about $500,000 annually in direct client services. One of the program’s concepts is that it will save money and resources because there will be fewer calls for emergency services.
The mayor praised the participants for being leaders and helping to make the program successful.
White, who worked in construction, ties his homelessness to a lack of jobs in the industry. He was recently diagnosed with emphysema and has severe knee problems. He moved into a one-bedroom near Central Avenue and San Mateo NE at the beginning of December.
“It’s been going good,” he said. “My fridge is full. I got my cable on.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal