When contemplating the breadth and depth of Albuquerque’s homelessness problem, it’s easy to get discouraged, to look at the problem nationwide and wonder if anything ever really helps this most vulnerable group of people living in our midst – on our streets, under our bridges, in our parks and open spaces.
For some, that sentiment was especially true this last week, when Journal reporter Rick Nathanson reported a survey that estimated at least 200 more people are homeless in Albuquerque than two years ago. Nathanson reported Tuesday that 1,524 “sheltered and unsheltered homeless people” were numbered in the city limits – a number up nearly 14% since the last time the survey was administered. Anyone who has been in the metro area for any length of time knows that’s doubtless far lower than reality – other estimates put the number of homeless Albuquerque area residents as high as 7,000.
It’s a troubling trend, and thankfully nobody’s saying it isn’t. So it’s a good time to step back and acknowledge the changes in the works in the local fight against homelessness.
In just a few months, Albuquerque voters will have a chance to weigh in on one of the most important potential solutions, $14 million worth of general obligation bonds to fund construction of a centrally located, low-barrier, 24/7 homeless shelter. The project will appear on the ballot as part of a $21.7 million request for senior, family, community center and community enhancement facilities. Passage will not raise taxes, though if the entire $125 million bond issue is defeated, taxes on a home valued at $200K would go down around $5 a month. The proposed shelter is an important effort that will fill in needs devastatingly lacking in the city.