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Overnight winter shelter set to open Wednesday

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Vans will begin shuttling homeless people to the overnight winter shelter beginning Wednesday, and what they will find there is a brighter and more welcoming and comfortable environment.

Mayor Richard Berry announced the winter schedule on Monday during a news conference at the shelter, located in what was once the old West Side jail, about 15 miles from Downtown and west of the volcanoes.

In a massive seven-month effort involving hundreds of volunteers, walls have been painted and adorned with murals, artwork hung, bed posts given a coat of color, indoor seating areas furnished with donated furniture, benches constructed for outdoor sitting areas and the entire place given a thorough cleaning.

There is now a “closet” for homeless people to select needed articles of clothing, and a children’s area where toys can be picked out.

This year, Heading Home won a competitive bid to run the winter shelter, which in the past had been operated by Steelbridge, formerly the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, and The Rock at Noon Day.

While the overnight shelter does not serve hot meals, beverages and snacks will be provided.

The shelter, which is open every night from mid-November through mid-March, provided a warm bed last winter for an average of 235 people nightly, or more than 25,000 overnight stays in total, Berry said. The shelter has the ability to accommodate up to 300 people in separate areas for single men, single women, families and families with children.

Heading Home chief operating officer Joell Ackerman said the agency believes in a “housing first” approach, “so housing and emergency shelters are kind of key ingredients in stabilizing our homeless population, and this is particularly important in the colder months of the year.”

Among the volunteers who contributed to transforming the shelter were employees of Sandia National Laboratories, their families and friends, local Boy and Girl Scouts, and members of the New Mexico National Guard and Sagebrush Church.

Pickup for transportation to the overnight winter shelter will be at:

• The Rock at Noon Day, 2400 Second Street NW, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.

• Coronado Park, 301 McKnight Ave NW, every evening at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.

• Emergency van pickup, every evening from 6 through 11:30 p.m. at First Street and Lomas (southeast corner), Central and Unser Transit Center (east parking lot). Call 388-4734 for estimated arrival times.

Vans return people to the various pickup sites at 7 a.m. each morning.