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Sites for new homeless shelter discussed

The old Lovelace hospital on Gibson is one of the sites being considered for an emergency shelter for the homeless. (Courtesy of CB Richard Ellis)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

City of Albuquerque officials have unveiled four new potential locations for a centralized emergency shelter for the homeless, and they include the old Lovelace hospital on Gibson.

The city announced the sites being considered at a Saturday public input session attended by nearly 200 people. Other possible locations for what the city is calling the Gateway Center include University of New Mexico property near Lomas and Interstate 25, Montessa Park south of the Sunport, and an area near Second and Interstate 40.

The announcement comes on the heels of a voter-approved general obligation bond that will generate $14 million for the project.

City officials stressed that nothing is set in stone, and those in attendance were asked to provide their own suggestions for where the shelter should be located.

“These are not determined, these are just options,” Gilbert Ramirez, the city’s deputy director of behavior health and wellness programs, said of the sites.

Another option broached Saturday is keeping the shelter at its current West Side location.

Alicia Manzano, a city spokeswoman, said the city is including that as an option to allow people to weigh in on the possibility. She noted that it’s already city owned property, and if there is strong support for keeping it there, the city would consider it. Manzano said that under that option, new facilities would be added to the West Side location to better serve those experiencing homelessness.

The potential locations were chosen based on cost, proximity to services, transportation and potential impact on neighborhoods, according to the city.

“We really wanted to make sure that we have some location sites that would tie it all in together,” Ramirez said.

City officials have previously said the new shelter would replace the existing West Side location and act as a one-stop-shop for those experiencing a housing emergency. They’ve also suggested that more of Albuquerque’s homeless population would use a centralized shelter. The current shelter is 20 miles from Downtown and clients are bused to and from it.

During Saturday’s meeting at the Convention Center, there was no consensus among attendees about where the shelter should be built or even what services should be offered there.

“They’re all bad and they’re all good at the same time,” Johnathon Stubbs said of the potential locations.

Stubbs attended the meeting with his two dogs, Sweetie and Sophie, and said there is a lack of comprehensive services for homeless individuals such as himself.

“I just want to be able to keep my animals and have a little bit of assistance,” he said.

Guillermina Osorio works with at-risk and homeless individuals. She said the city should focus on a more individualized approach.

“Everyone wants to put all of the homeless in one spot … What they don’t understand is that each individual has a different need,” Osorio said.

Other at the meeting expressed concern about the impact a large shelter would have on nearby neighborhoods.

Greg Cook, a long time resident of Martineztown, said he hopes the shelter isn’t built in Downtown, with safety his main concern.

“The number one consensus is ‘not in my neighborhood,’ ” Cook said.

Ramirez said the city would also solicit input on the new shelter from people experiencing homelessness.

Preliminary designs for the 300-person shelter include separate wings for men, women and families. In addition to providing a bed, the shelter will have on-site case managers to assist clients with securing housing vouchers, addiction treatment and other resources, the city has said.

City officials have said a centralized shelter could alleviate the impact the homeless population has on emergency rooms by providing first responders an alternative destination for those they encounter on “down and out” calls. In a one-year period, emergency services transported 6,952 “down and out” individuals to the ER. Of those, only 110 had a life-threatening condition, according to city data.

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