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Initiative to help Albuquerqueans dealing with homelessness

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Linda Bridge, executive director of the Albuquerque Housing Authority, talks about new initiatives her agency and the City of Albuquerque are taking to mitigate homelessness.(Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

An additional 50 to 80 homeless individuals or families will be able to get tenant-based rental assistance vouchers for short-term supportive housing with the awarding of $1,034,000 from the city, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced during a Wednesday news conference outside City Hall.

The money, which comes as a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is channeled through the city’s HOME program. It will serve clients of Albuquerque Heading Home, which will also be providing support services. The Albuquerque Housing Authority will issue the vouchers, which cover up to two years of rental assistance.

In addition, the housing authority has committed to setting aside the first 125 vouchers for its Section 8 Housing Choice program for people who are leaving supportive housing programs and are ready to move into more permanent housing, said Linda Bridge, executive director of that agency.

“That will open up valuable spaces in the overly stressed programs that already exist. It moves people who are in those programs now into a more permanent solution and frees up those slots to bring more people out of homelessness into supportive housing,” Bridge said. “Together, these efforts will serve over 175 households who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness.”

Keller said the renewed commitment to mitigating homelessness is based on the “housing first” model. “We talk about the spectrum of services we need to provide for folks who are dealing with homelessness,” but the most basic thing they require is a place to live. “Once housed, these individuals and families are then able to focus on the other needs to get out of the cycle of poverty.”

Those needs may include fulfilling educational goals, finding employment, obtaining child care or addressing physical and mental health issues.

“Housing provides the stability necessary for individuals and families to thrive,” Bridge said. She related the story of a homeless person who said, “The worst part of being homeless was not having keys to anything.” Keys not only unlock a door, she said, “They unlock so much more.”

The tenant-based rental assistance vouchers are being awarded to Albuquerque Heading Home clients who have applied for and are awaiting permanent housing. The two-year vouchers are intended to support them as they wait to get public housing or a Section 8 voucher.

The Housing Choice vouchers for longer-term accommodations are awarded to people who have already begun receiving services from organizations helping them leave homelessness into short-term supportive housing. The program gets about $22 million a year directly from HUD and serves nearly 4,000 people annually. As people cycle in and out of the voucher program, 200 to 300 vouchers are made available to new clients each year, Bridge said.

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