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Short-changed District 6 doesn’t deserve shelter

Lovelace Medical Center on Gibson in Albuquerque. (Dean Hanson, Albuquerque Journal)

Lovelace Medical Center on Gibson in Albuquerque. (Dean Hanson, Albuquerque Journal)

As I read yet another editorial in favor of placing the Gateway Shelter at the Lovelace Gibson location, I can’t help but think how wonderful it must be to know such a project will never wind up in your own area, that you can declare another district as deserving of one more service to further blight it.

District Six has suffered over 30 years of being underserved, overburdened and disenfranchised by every administration at the city helm. When it comes to addiction centers, mental health facilities, homeless services, methadone clinics, halfway houses on every level, Tiny Home shelters, and other programs, D6 has taken far more than the lion’s share of the burden – more so than any other except District Two, with whom we are being pitted against in a Thunderdome-style battle in which the winner takes all and the loser faces plummeting property values.

Already we face a shortage of police while barrages of bullets fly day and night. We watch our tax dollars get siphoned away to more affluent areas of town, and we’re told it’s because those areas are more vocal in demand. For example: D6 has the most pedestrian fatalities citywide but will be receiving none of the Mayor’s Vision Zero dollars to help our blighted section of Central Avenue because, to paraphrase the Department of Municipal Development, “it’s tough down there.” Yes, we know. We live here.

We’re regularly admonished that it’s up to everyone to fight homelessness. Then why is it District Six and District Two are most often tasked with accepting programs such as Gateway? What seems glossed over is that this will be a wet shelter, accepting people in any state they arrive: full drug psychosis, dangerously intoxicated, in the throes of mental illness. Experts have advised that by allowing these conditions into the shelter, those most in need of emergency services and those who would avail themselves of the services to end homelessness will be the least likely to arrive. They’ve warned that at-risk women and families are adverse to enter a shelter if they perceive danger from unpredictable behaviors, that the mentally ill are unlikely to enter a large, bustling facility, and instead advocate for smaller, specialized facilities spread citywide.

Additionally, no one utilizing the shelter will be required to use the services for transitioning out of homelessness. What this means to D6 is that people can arrive nightly to sleep, then head out to neighborhoods all day to drink, use drugs and load up before returning to the shelter. We have numerous parks already unusable to taxpayers due to large camps, routinely broken up by police because of drug-selling operations, or awash with used syringes and paraphernalia. How can we believe the claims that our neighborhoods will be protected from further abuse when we are inundated already, receiving little as is? Roadway, median and beautification projects stop dead at our edges, even at the expense of our neighboring base for whom neglect is the first impression for officials and servicemen visiting our city. Where is the pride?

I bought my home in this area because I love the diverse culture, exceptional restaurants, plentiful museums and the friendly vibe exuded by the vintage neighborhoods. What should be a prized, multicultural gem has suffered enough neglect. Adding the Gateway Shelter would not only endanger our neighborhood further, it would overburden a struggling community to the breaking point. I urge the mayor, City Council and the citizens of Albuquerque to strongly consider switching from the mega-shelter model to the smaller, more specialized units advocated for by the experts, and many of the homeless themselves, in order to better assist those willing and able to transition, rather than creating a large, unmanageable catch-all sure to become Tim Keller’s ART-style legacy.

A petition against Lovelace Gibson as a homeless shelter site is at ipetitions.com/petition/no-gateway-shelter-at-lovelace-gibson

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