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Editorial: Ensure area homelessness solutions work in concert

Traffic flows on I-25 as homeless people set up a Tent City near Lomas and I-25 in March 2015. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

It is heartening Metro-area leaders are tackling, on numerous fronts, the homelessness that has hit critical mass here. Local governments, nonprofits and even a business group are proposing – and, in some cases, already implementing – projects aimed at addressing the problem.

But it is essential those efforts are complementary and work together – not only to ensure public and private sectors get the most bang for the bucks invested – but so efforts deliver results for folks struggling to finally have a home base. As well as a safe place to lay their heads.

Projects already proposed or in the works include:

⋄  The city of Albuquerque has set aside $1,034,000 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for “short-term supportive housing.” In real life that means 50 to 80 families in the Heading Home program will get rental-assistance vouchers for up to two years to help cover their housing costs as they get their finances and lives on track.

⋄  The city and Bernalillo County are planning a $4 million supportive housing project for those suffering from behavioral health issues and in need of shelter. The project would provide 40 to 60 residential units with on-site services including case management, medical and behavioral health services, employment and assistance with benefits.

⋄  The city and county have narrowed down possible sites to six along or just off Central Avenue for a $2 million tiny home initiative. The village of 25 to 35 tiny portable homes, offered for nominal rent, will give individuals already on “a path to self-sufficiency” housing stability.

⋄  The new Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance, made up of 30 Downtown businesses, is proposing Homeless Vision 2018, a campus west of town with on-site housing and social services, similar to one in San Antonio, Texas.

⋄  And St. Martin’s HopeWorks is planning a 42-unit permanent housing site on its Downtown campus.

All are coming from a good place – to help those struggling with homelessness while reducing calls for (and thus the cost of) law enforcement, emergency medical and jail services. But good intentions implemented in silos are rarely, if ever, enough to get even the best plan over the finish line. If they were, the homelessness problems in our community would not be at the crisis level they are.

The city, county, neighborhood groups and others have collaborated on some projects. It is essential such collaboration continue – and community, business, health-care and nonprofit sectors are at the table at the macro level.

The homeless problem in the Duke City has exploded in recent years – an estimated 1,400 to 2,000 homeless individuals are surviving in the neighborhoods around Downtown alone – and it will take true collaboration to ensure diverse plans work together for long-term success of the community and the people they are trying to help.

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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