Editorial: Warming station a way station to a better life - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Warming station a way station to a better life

Something divine is going on in Albuquerque’s International District.

After seeing folks sleeping out in the cold at Phil Chacon Park, Interfaith Bible Center pastor Joanne Landry offered a solution: “We thought ‘Let’s clear the park; let’s get them out of there and bring them into a safe place.’ I would say half of the park is (staying) here,” she recently told the Journal.

The longtime pastor dreamed for years of opening a day shelter. Her dream became a reality last summer when the Compassion Services Center launched in an old portable classroom across the street from her church.

But providing meals, outdoor camping showers and some time off the streets wasn’t enough for Landry. The center had been in operation only a few months when Landry decided she wanted to do more. She extended the day shelter into a concept she calls a “Warming Station.”

The Compassion Services Center’s Warming Station that opened in November now provides overnight accommodations for up to 25 people. And through its “gate” program, it provides blankets, gloves and other essential items.

“It’s been very, very heartwarming, especially at night when it’s so cold,” Landry said.

So what about the neighbors? Are they opposed to a homeless shelter like those who have appealed a zoning decision that would allow the opening of the long-awaited Gateway Center at the old Lovelace hospital — which, by the way, is less than two miles away from the Compassion Services Center?

Landry says she’s faced no significant pushback. In fact, she says many people who live nearby have made donations.

It’s good the city of Albuquerque is also helping, with things like a mobile six-unit showering station and about $137,000 to help sustain the warming station through the winter, with money going to utilities, a professional security guard and daily stipends of $20 to $35 to clients like Bill Van Bebber.

Van Bebber helps with shelter operations, distributing supplies at the gate, setting up the cots at night and helping enforce shelter rules. Drug and alcohol use aren’t allowed.

Van Bebber has avoided traditional shelters. He doesn’t trust them. And many shelters won’t allow him to bring along his beloved dog. Not so at the Warming Station, which allows pets to stay overnight with their human companions. “Their animals are very important to them,” Landry notes.

Landry says the shelter is intended as a way station on the way to more stable accommodations. Although it may be a temporary solution, it’s a significant one to a larger problem. Perhaps, even, a divine intervention that deserves our praise and support.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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