A new petition initiated by New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness staff is urging Albuquerque officials to “hit pause” on plans to close Coronado Park to break up a large unsanctioned encampment that has developed there.
The petition said the city should, however, “stick to its plan to create sanctioned and well-managed encampments.”
Citing crime and other problems at the park near Third Street and Interstate 40, Mayor Tim Keller recently announced plans to close Coronado Park, where an estimated 75 to 120 people sleep nightly. He has said it would happen in August, though the city has not given a specific date. It continues sending outreach staff to the park to talk with residents about what they will do once the park closes. Keller has said there are enough shelter beds in the city to host the number of people sleeping in the park, though officials acknowledge some will not use shelters.
The petition argues park residents were left out of the city’s decision and that the city has no real plan for what to do next. It takes an average of 713 days for someone who is homeless to become housed, it says, and that factors in only the people who actually procure housing.
The petition describes itself as coming from “a collective of people currently experiencing homelessness, people with lived experience with homelessness, people working in housing and homeless assistance, and other community members.”
Tony Watkins, a program director for NMCEH, said he started the petition after speaking to a man at Coronado Park who wanted to address the City Council about the closure, but the public comment sign-ups for the council’s most recent meeting were too full by the time he tried to register.
“Those are the people often left out of the process, and they’re the people that we need to be listening to,” Watkins said.
Keller’s office said in a statement that Coronado Park is too dangerous for the entire community.
“Our city’s most vulnerable have become prey to crime in the park,” spokeswoman Ava Montoya said in an email. “That can’t be allowed to continue.”