Editorial: City-UNM agreement step toward homeless solutions - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: City-UNM agreement step toward homeless solutions

It’s a Band-Aid that could keep some people healthy, safe, even alive. Kudos to Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque City Council for providing year-round funding for the West Side emergency shelter, where – until now – more than 300 homeless individuals have been housed overnight just during winter months.

But everyone involved concurs this is a temporary solution.

An even more important step is the letter of intent Keller and University of New Mexico officials signed signaling collaboration on long-term solutions to the growing homeless problem. (An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 individuals are homeless here.)

“I view our partnership as an opportunity — one that offers the possibility of affecting real change in our community,” Dr. Paul Roth, chancellor of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, said during a news conference announcing the new agreement.

Part of that deal says the city, UNM and UNM HSC will explore the potential development of a 24/7 emergency shelter with supportive services and a gateway to health care and social services via nonprofits and charities represented there.

Keller points to that centralized shelter as a top priority, and credits the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce with having the vision early on for an around-the-clock shelter with local entities working together. The chamber led several trips of local leaders to other cities to study their programs.

Albuquerque needs a place “people could go 24/7 with no questions asked, regardless of your state of mind or your condition,” Keller says. “That is what almost every major city in America has; that is what Albuquerque has never had.” A first step is determining a site, and both city and UNM land will be considered.

Bernalillo County also has been working on solutions, including a tiny homes village to provide transitional housing. The county also is implementing multiple mental health programs for members of the homeless population – a key aspect of any solution.

Keller says the likely price tag for an emergency shelter is in the $28 million range, and the city will be asking the Legislature for the funding. City voters could be asked to approve a bond issue for the amount the Legislature doesn’t fund.

Homelessness is a complex issue that can only be solved with cooperation on all fronts. There are signs that’s finally happening.

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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