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Collaboration drives answers to homelessness

As anchor institutions within our community, the city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the University of New Mexico have been entrusted by our residents to collaboratively solve our challenges in thoughtful, compassionate, effective and enduring ways. In particular, the city and county have a shared interest and responsibility in addressing the local housing needs in our community. Homelessness is growing all across the nation, and our metro area is no exception.

We have initiated a number of meaningful collaborations, including the Community Connections Program, Single Site Supportive Housing, Westside Emergency Housing Peer Case Management, and health care – all of which address needs across the housing continuum. There is much more work to do, and we will share updates on our progress as we advance this work to tackle homelessness.

Most recently, (we) launched the Homeless Coordinating Council (HCC) with the city, county and the University of New Mexico. The HCC will initially focus on the Gateway Project and then serve as a structure for future collaboration. Through a public process over the last year with an online survey, focus groups and community input sessions, the best model for the Gateway Center emerged as multiple smaller, de-centralized locations. These low-barrier, 24/7 facilities will assist with housing options for people, along with critical access to services and case management.

The five committees of the HCC are focused on developing the next steps for: Gateway Facilities, Housing, Coordinated Street Outreach, Homeless Services System, and Youth Housing Continuum. Each committee includes leadership from each HCC entity along with community members with subject matter expertise in homelessness, housing and behavioral health. HCC meetings are open to the public and subsequently published in an effort to ensure community participation and engagement, with the larger goal of developing a robust housing continuum. We welcome your participation in these meetings.

We can’t address homelessness without addressing mental health challenges. The Community Connections program provides supportive housing for people suffering from mental illness, who are leaving jail and who are experiencing homelessness or lack stable housing. This partnership between the county and the city provides housing subsidies for scattered site housing along with intensive wraparound services to support individuals.

The new Single Site Supportive Housing project will provide 42 individual housing units with on-site services for single adults who are: homeless or precariously housed; have a diagnosable behavioral health condition, including substance use disorders; and experience significant behavioral health challenges requiring a more intensive level of services. The building will be staffed 24 hours a day, with security both inside and outside of the building. The city has awarded a contract for development and land acquisition for the single site, and the county has selected HopeWorks as the provider of supportive services. This project has included close work with the neighborhood through the use of a good neighbor agreement, and the city has committed to improve public infrastructure in the neighborhood.

While we work toward longer-term housing solutions like these, emergency shelter is a temporary measure for many people and families experiencing homelessness. The city of Albuquerque has committed to operating the Westside Emergency Housing Center (WEHC) year-round to provide emergency shelter to single men, single women and families with children experiencing homelessness from Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. The county is partnering by providing $400,000 toward the costs of operating the center and peer case management through an existing county contractor.

Finally, the UNM Health Sciences Center has been providing health care and medical direction at the WEHC. The WEHC should be an access point to community resources that lead to permanent housing and stability and provide a safe alternative to jail and emergency rooms for people experiencing homelessness. By providing multiple points of entry into housing and service engagement, we are investing in a larger goal of developing a housing continuum rather than a single siloed housing service.

As we move forward with this critical work, we are deeply invested in listening to and engaging with our residents, and serving those most in need in our community. Please join us and get involved at: www.cabq.gov/family/services/homeless-services.

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