Three-step plan identifies 75 needy residents, provides housing, and engages non-profit community.
- Robin Dozier-Otten - (505) 768-2870
How You Can Help
If you know someone in desperate need, please refer them to the Albuquerque Heading Home project.
- Volunteers: The City is asking for volunteers to get behind the Albuquerque Heading Home initiative and support it with labor, knowledge, and donations. There are a variety of tasks to be completed and everybody who has an interest in the program will be given an assignment to carry out.
Volunteer opportunities and registration may be accessed through the Albuquerque Heading Home project.
- Faith Community: Albuquerque has a strong faith community who provide valuable services for the homeless. We want them to keep up the good work and to work with us as we identify those who may be able to benefit greatly for this new initiative.
- Social Service Providers: Cooperate with Albuquerque Heading Home to make supportive services and staff available.
- Housing Providers: Re-appropriate current housing availability to Albuquerque Heading Home and help make additional ongoing housing available.
- Funding Partners: Continue to help Albuquerque Heading Home target major, ongoing financial support.
- Law Enforcement: Assist Albuquerque Heading Home with geographical mapping, scouting, and logistics during the Survey Week activities.
- Business Community: Contribute needed items and support for Registry Week. Continue to promote and support Albuquerque Heading Home.
- Public: Give support to Albuquerque Heading Home and volunteer.
Mayor Richard J. Berry and Family and Community Services Director Robin Otten announced on Thursday an aggressive initiative to combat chronic homelessness and its expense to the public.
"It is time that Albuquerque takes a comprehensive approach to the problem of chronic homelessness," Mayor Berry said. "Not only does chronic homelessness cause a great deal of suffering, it also comes at a great expense to the public and places a drain on already scarce resources. This will be an effort by the entire community to address a problem that devastates people at every level of society."
"People who suffer from chronic homelessness are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and veterans who have come home after serving our country," Mayor Berry said.
The initiative, Albuquerque Heading Home, is a multi-step plan that incorporates hundreds of volunteers, the business community, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and the faith community. Best practices from other cities around the country have been used during the development of this initiative. The goal of the program is to make a very real and measurable impact to chronic homelessness in Albuquerque.
The initiative has three steps:
Step 1. Finding the "Million-Dollar Murrays" of Albuquerque
Murray Barr, was a homeless alcoholic man in Reno, Nevada, who ran up a bill of more than $1 million at a single hospital. On nearly a daily basis he would fall and request medical attention for the ten years he had been on the streets.
During the week of Jan. 30, hundreds of volunteers will canvass the entire city interviewing and surveying homeless men, women, and children. The 75 people who are some of the most vulnerable will be housed and provided the services they need for their disabilities or the addictions they face. Housing some of the most at-risk will begin saving tax money. City leaders expect to see positive results with these 75 people paying fewer visits to emergency rooms, hospitals and jails and through fewer public safety calls by firefighters and police.
Last year, the Albuquerque Fire Department responded to more than 3,650 "down and out calls." Most of these people were like Murray - homeless and suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. At an average cost of $177.93 per rescue response, these calls cost taxpayers more than $644,000.
"Every city has Murrays and Albuquerque is no exception," Otten said. "Our goal with this new initiative is to identify these individuals and get them the help they need. Minor medical problems snowball into major problems. We see it all the time. A simple toothache turns into a life threatening infection. Or a night sleeping under an interstate ramp in January turns into a morning in the ER being treated for frostbite and hypothermia."
Step 2: Housing and Funding
Knowing that housing people is far more cost effective than being caught in the emergency system, the City of Albuquerque will take the lead of finding at least 75 housing units for the selected homeless. Once successfully placed in housing, area non-profits will step in and provide case-management to service the unique needs of each person or family.
"Far too often cities make the mistake of trying to manage the homeless problem," Otten said. "We no longer want to manage the problem, we want to do everything we can solve the problem for the chronically homeless."
Funding sources for the housing and social services come from a variety of areas, both public and private. The City receives a number of federal grants and housing options that will be utilized and the non-profit community will play a vital role in keeping services going.
"This is not a free ride," Mayor Berry said. "We are going to get our chronic homeless population the help and tools they need to improve their outcomes, but they will have to help themselves and participate in the program in order to succeed."
Step 3: Keeping the Momentum Going
Unlike other homeless initiatives, this program:
- Engages the non-profit community
- Uses grant resources to improve circumstances for these individuals, and
- Saves public resources for the long term.
Once the 75 chronically homeless have been identified and housed and we can identify the cost savings, we will evaluate the program's effectiveness. If our assumptions are correct and the program proves to be effective as it has in other cities across the country, we will attempt to identify additional individuals that may qualify for the program.
"I know the plan sounds ambitious, but it's possible," Mayor Berry said. "We cannot ignore the problem any longer; we must proactively make every effort to make a difference for the chronically homeless and the community."
National studies show that only 20 percent of all homeless people are chronically homeless, meaning people who live in shelters or on the streets for years at a time. The other 80 percent are people who are homeless for a short period of time, even as little as one day. Studies indicate that the large majority of men and women who find themselves homeless quickly try to rebound and find safe shelter either with friends or family.
The minority 20 percent are largely individuals with mental disorders, physical disabilities, and addictions. In cities all across the country, the chronically homeless cost millions upon millions of dollars in resources with repeat emergency room visits, jail time, publicly funded rehabilitation services, and countless man-hours of police, firefighters, and paramedic's time and equipment. In fact, one study in Los Angeles found that the top 10 percent of chronically homeless people used 58 percent of the total cost associated with homelessness.
One defining example of the problem was illustrated in a 2006 article of The New Yorker. The magazine profiled an alcoholic, homeless man in Reno, Nevada named Murray Barr. Public officials calculated that over the several years of emergency room visits, often with 4-5 visits each week, Murray racked up a million dollar hospital bill, all paid for by public funds. The New Yorker calculated the people of Reno would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars if they had provided housing and support services for Murray for all those years instead.