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Mayor: Homeless initiative a success

Mayor Richard Berry, center, talks to Rudy Artago, left, who is homeless, during a survey of the city’s homeless population in January.
Mayor Richard Berry, center, talks to Rudy Artago, left, who is homeless, during a survey of the city’s homeless population in January.
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After two years, the city of Albuquerque’s “Heading Home” initiative to provide housing for the most vulnerable homeless people is “working,” said Mayor Richard Berry.

At a news conference Wednesday, Berry and others unveiled the results of a survey conducted two weeks ago of homeless people on the streets, in shelters and at drop-in centers.

Compared with the same count done in 2011, there were 454 fewer homeless this year. The total number of homeless dropped from about 1,630 to 1,176. Those numbers include people both in shelters and out and likely under-estimate the true number, said Dennis Plummer, chief executive officer with Metropolitan Homelessness Project.

Officials with the program say they used the same methodology as in 2011. That included sending out teams on two consecutive mornings from 4 to 6 a.m. and asking each person to complete a vulnerability index survey. About 420 agreed to complete the survey.

Since it began, the program has housed 171 chronic and vulnerable homeless — those most likely to die — with an 87 percent retention rate. That does not include family members of the participants. That surpasses the goal of housing 166 people at the end of two years.

Among those deemed “most vulnerable,” the average time of homelessness dropped from 20 years in 2011 to 6 1/2 years in 2013, according to the survey results

“That’s an amazing statistic,” Berry said. “It actually tells us that Albuquerque Heading Home is working, because that’s what this program is about. This is about getting the chronically homeless off the streets, and if we’ve been able to drop the time folks have been on the streets that much in two years, we know those 171 people we’ve been able to put into housing came from the right category.”

Other survey results show that since 2011:

♦ The percent deemed “vulnerable” — or with a high mortality risk — dropped by 5 percent.

♦ Those who were hospitalized three times or more in the past year dropped by 15 percent.

♦ Veterans dropped from 29 percent of those surveyed to 17 percent.

The president of the Apartment Association of New Mexico, Chuck Sheldon, also announced a new program at the news conference called “Home to Home.” It will allow tenants to donate along with their rent money to benefit the Heading Home program.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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