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Editorial: Effort to help homeless

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Down and out and mentally ill.

Not a new predicament – but sometimes a dangerous one – in American society today.

Its prevalence has been given more attention in the past few years in the Albuquerque metro area where some people with mental illness have had unfortunate – sometimes fatal – encounters with police, other homeless people and other city residents alike.

The multiple killings by John Hyde in 2005, which included two police officers; this year’s fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd at the hands of police; and last month’s public beating of a woman and slashing of her protector that preceded police shooting Ralph Chavez near Downtown all point to the city’s need to deal with homeless and mentally ill people.

Mayor Richard Berry last week announced an initiative to help people in crisis. Berry didn’t directly tie the new effort to any particular events, but he did say there have been “many situations in recent months, where we’ve … had tragic incidents with individuals who are both homeless and suffering mental health issues.”

A coordinator for Directed Outreach Services will be funded with $50,000 from the city’s Department of Family and Community Services to form an emergency response team for people in crisis. That person will work out of St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, which is seeking private funds to hire two more people for the team.

Having St. Martin’s as home base makes sense. The center works with about 4,200 homeless people. The team also will work with other organizations that interact with homeless people.

This cooperative effort is a much-needed response and a step toward solving a serious problem in the city.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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