Downtown safety and business security issues have made the headlines recently, and for good reason. The well-being of our civic center speaks to the health of our broader community and highlights the challenges that we collectively face. We would like to highlight one collaboration that is a part of needed solutions.
Albuquerque Heading Home – a community collaborative of nonprofits, businesses and government that works to make experiences of homelessness rare, short-lived and nonrecurring – has been diligently working toward a Downtown response team proposal for many months. The proposal addresses Downtown-area issues related to homelessness service access and appropriate responses to behavioral health crises and is a potential mediation resource for businesses in the area.
It is important to note that media oftentimes fail to completely contextualize the myriad complex issues that our state faces. Often the public is left with the notion that Downtown issues of safety, cleanliness, panhandling and drug use are all related to individuals experiencing homelessness. We know that this is not always the case.
According to the ABQ Journal (“Opioid epidemic: ‘Enough is enough’ “), New Mexico is in the throes of a statewide opioid-addiction and drug-overdose epidemic. Our state also currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And, there are other critical challenges that we as New Mexicans face. Homelessness is one of them.
While we strongly caution against overlaying homelessness onto other issues – crime is crime, not homelessness – Heading Home pledges to work through the Albuquerque Heading Home partnership to do our part. We, too, have offices Downtown and are committed to the safety, progress and growth of our community. Our collective outreach aims to be on the street by September to work with people experiencing homelessness who also experience acute behavioral health issues. The team will work to move such persons to help, housing and sustainable care while also seeking partnerships that quicken pathways to exit living on the street.
This will not solve all problems. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to understand the various issues involved in Downtown safety. Solving one will not necessarily solve the others. A comprehensive and sustained response is required, and we believe that collaborative businesses, government and neighborhood involvement is the only answer.