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HopeWorks village moves ahead, despite objections

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The planning of a 42-unit supportive residential apartment building on the campus of HopeWorks is proceeding, despite ongoing reservations from area residents and surrounding neighborhood associations, who regard it as just one more problem for their community – already burdened by a disproportionate number of homeless people.

Greg Morris

“The neighbors’ concerns are valid. We hear them. But our mission is to serve people who are living in visible poverty, visible homelessness and who are dying on the street,” says HopeWorks executive director Greg Morris.

According to a HopeWorks fact sheet, the apartments will be the first of three phases that will eventually rebuild the entire campus at 1201 Third Street, which is located between Third and Fourth Streets north of Mountain Road. The residential units will be located on the second and third floors of the building, while the first floor will be for behavioral health and case management services. The parking lot will be landscaped and trees will be planted along Fourth Street.

Phase one of the project is expected to cost about $9 million and much of the money is already in place, says Morris, including: $3 million from the National Housing Trust Fund; up to $630,000 from HOME Investment Partnership funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; $1.3 million from the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund; $2 million from the city of Albuquerque; and $2 million from Bernalillo County.

“We’re actively seeking the balance from public and private sources, and hope to break ground this fall,” Morris says of the project, which has a tentative completion date of December 2019.

The second phase includes construction of a new administrative and services building located along Third Street, and the third phase will replace the existing day shelter and dining hall.

Additional landscaping, lighting and security features will be added with each phase.

Ultimately, the campus will be reinforced with fencing and gated entries from the street.

“The goal is to provide a welcoming, comfortable space that will encourage individuals to stay on the campus during the day to rest and obtain services, instead of milling around the adjacent neighborhoods,” Morris says.

The current day shelter space is “not welcoming or thoughtfully designed,” he says. “It was an old building when we got it, and while there is some space outside the building for people to gather, it’s basically an extension of our parking lot” and provides little inducement for people to remain there during the day.

While the daily migration of the homeless through the Wells Park, Near North Valley and other neighborhoods is a constant source of resident animosity, not many people believe the HopeWorks project will provide much relief in the context of a homeless population that is counted in the thousands.

“Certainly, there are many more people living on the street than there are vacant units, so we have to build more permanent supportive housing,” says Morris. “That ultimately is what will mitigate the neighborhood impact.”