Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
The most difficult individuals among the homeless population are those who have been chronically homeless, suffer with mental or behavioral health issues, and struggle with substance abuse.
These are the people least amenable to staying in overnight emergency shelters or seeking out social services, and are exactly the people being targeted for placement in Hope Village – a new 42-unit apartment building built and operated by HopeWorks, one of Albuquerque’s largest nonprofit providers of services to the homeless.
Called a “single-site” project, Hope Village, in addition to housing, will have on-site services and programs specifically for its residents.
“This is not transitional housing, it’s not emergency shelter, this is permanent supportive housing,” said HopeWorks co-Chief Executive Officer Greg Morris. “People can obviously leave if they want to, certainly if they get to a place of high self-sufficiency and stabilization, and they want to live somewhere else.”
Hope Village is currently waiting to receive a certificate of occupancy from the city and expects to begin moving residents in within the next 30 days, Morris said.
Located adjacent to the HopeWorks day shelter at 1201 Third NW, the first floor of the three-story Hope Village will contain space for wraparound support services and programs. These include on-site case management, medication management, counseling and treatment for people with mental and behavioral health problems, and drug addictions. There will also be a host of life skills and peer-run programs available, Morris said.
The first floor will also provide offices for round-the-clock security, a mail room, a fitness room, a demonstration kitchen and a large sitting space with a television, library and fireplace.
The two residential floors above both feature a smaller common sitting area and a laundry room. The one-bedroom apartments, 10 of them fully accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, and all of them ADA-adaptable, are designed for single-person occupancy. Contained within the 410 square feet of space are a full-size bed, a bathroom with a shower, a kitchenette with a two-burner stove top and microwave, a dormitory-size refrigerator/freezer, sofa, table and television.
Hope Village was constructed at a cost of about $12 million, with major funding from the federal and state Mortgage Finance Authority, Bernalillo County, city of Albuquerque, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. Bernalillo County will pick up the annual operating costs, estimated at $1 million, Morris said.
A closed and gated community with 24-hour on-site security, Hope Village residents may come and go, but visitors will not be allowed in unless they have a reason or business to be there.
Residents initially will not be expected to pay rent, but, after the first year, their income status will be evaluated, at which point rent may be assessed “based on a portion of their income – if they have income,” Morris said.
Potential residents are referred for a space in Hope Village by the various agencies that provide homeless services, including HopeWorks, with representatives from HopeWorks and Bernalillo County’s Community Connections program vetting and selecting the applicants, he said.
Unlike the Tiny Homes Village, where more stringent requirements and rules have made finding acceptable applicants more difficult, “our eligibility criteria has a pretty low threshold and we want the most difficult cases,” said Morris.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Albuquerque and for New Mexico to prove that ‘housing first’ really does work, and that stabilization, along with community and wraparound services, can absolutely transform folks that right now have no hope,” he said.
The housing first model, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is based on data that shows providing housing to people experiencing homelessness serves as the foundation for them to address other issues that may have contributed to their homelessness – such as food insecurity, mental and physical health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, financial instability and unemployment.
Further, said Morris, there is another benefit to housing first.
Several years ago, he and others toured a single-site facility in Denver where more than 60 homeless people, similarly vulnerable as the Albuquerque cohort, were relocated from the streets. “Within a year, not only was there no turnover in the units, but about 60% had actually found jobs and gone back to work,” Morris said. “That surprised me because I didn’t necessarily expect that this population would be able to get back into the workforce.”
Responding to often-heard criticism that the homeless population in Albuquerque is growing because the services providers enable them, Morris recalled a well-known line from the 1989 baseball film, “Field of Dreams.”
“It’s not like, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ ” he said. “They’re already here.”