Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
As Albuquerque works toward its plan to build an emergency shelter to serve about 300 people, a new analysis says the community actually needs around 500 new beds to fully accommodate all of the adults who are sleeping on the streets, in parks and other unsheltered locations.
But that estimate does not include any additional capacity needed to serve families.
Nor is it the only possible solution outlined in the new report from Stephen Metraux from the Center for Community Research & Service at the University of Delaware, and Barbara Poppe, former executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The analysis, which cost the city about $45,000, is intended to help Albuquerque in “determining an optimal configuration of emergency shelter beds” to safely accommodate those without any other place to stay the night.
The report, dated last month, relies partly on the “point in time” count conducted in January to measure the number of homeless people in Albuquerque on one night. The count identified 1,524 people, the majority of them adults without children. Of those adults, 545 were considered “unsheltered” – a 287% increase from six years ago. Accounting for the fact that some will not use a shelter, the authors say the city needs 463 to 518 new shelter beds to meet the demand, nearly doubling what is available across the city today.
And they say theirs is a conservative estimate.
The January count “almost certainly did not count all single adults who were in unsheltered locations, and we did not consider the likelihood that the single adult population would continue to grow as it has over the past six years,” the analysis said.
The report comes amid considerable discussion about how to address the city’s homelessness problem, which leaders say is greater than the one-night assessment shows. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration says an estimated 5,000 households will experience homelessness over the course of a year.
Keller’s plan includes building a new, centrally located shelter to serve all populations – including adults and families – and guide them to permanent housing by linking them to available programs and services. Officials have said it would likely have about 300 beds, a number based on the average nightly use at the city’s existing West Side shelter. Officials want to replace that shelter, about 20 miles from Downtown, partly because of its remote location.
Lisa Huval, the city’s deputy director for housing and homelessness, said the new report is not intended to dictate the size of the city’s new, centralized shelter but to show how it fits into what she called the “overall picture.”
“I think this report helps us understand (and) gives us a snapshot: As of today, what is the overall need for emergency shelter beds?” Huval said Friday. “It also offers different scenarios that would affect the number of shelter beds needed going forward.”
The analysis identifies alternatives to mitigate the need for more shelter beds. They include permanent “supportive” housing options for people who are chronically homeless and disabled, saying 630 new living units could eliminate the need for any more shelter beds.
Other solutions include “rapid rehousing” and a problem-solving diversion approach that could prevent people from becoming homeless or quickly return them to housing when they do. That could include limited rental assistance, legal help for those fighting eviction, or paying travel costs for those who have a housing option but no means to get there.