Councilor Lewis Memo on City Sanctioned Tent Encampments or “Living Lots” or “Safe Outdoor Spaces”

Memo by City Council Vice President Dan Lewis.

Not New and Not Innovative

Cities with tent encampments are now admitting failure to solve the problem and are going back to clearing camps and enforcing trespassing and loitering laws.

  • Seattle clears tent encampment after admitting failure. Seattle Times 5/10/2022
  • Portland, Seattle, DC, LA clearing homeless camps for good. The Columbian 6/5/22
  • Denver sees massive increase in homeless despite “Safe Outdoor Spaces. The Denver Post 6/6/22
  • Liberal cities are changing course, clearing homeless camps. 6/11/22
  • NYC residents furious over homeless tent encampment in Queens neighborhood. NY Post 2/5/22
  • As Progressive Cities Are Overrun with Homelessness, Will Enabling Democrats Face a Reckoning? AMAC 2/23/2
  • Toronto Wants to Demolish Tent Cities. ca 6/16/2020
  • Houston – Clearing and closing encampments and enforcing loitering and trespassing laws.
  • San Diego – City focus on mental health and drug abuse programs and no sanctioned encampments.
  • Honolulu, Salt Lake City, Seattle have reversed support of sanctioned tent encampments. NM Sun 6/3/22

City Spending Around the Country on Tent Encampments is Unthinkable

  • Denver’s Annual per-Person Spending on Homeless is Twice the Cost of a One-Bedroom Apartment. Denver Post 5/8/21
  • A homeless encampment run by San Francisco costs the city $60,000 per year, per tent, twice the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment for each tent. San Francisco Chronicle 6/23/21
  • $ 5 Million Dollar Tiny Home Villages Struggle. KRQE 12/8/21

Citizens Do Not Support Tent Encampments

  • The Albuquerque City Council has received a massive amount of emails and calls from citizens who oppose encampments. Not one neighborhood association, Home Owners Association, Coalition, or any other organization has endorsed the government sanctioned tent encampment proposals.
  • In Austin voters approved a ballot proposal to ban tent encampments and ensure Austin is enforcing anti-encampment laws.
  • In Missouri, bill advances to ban tents in response to homeless “tent villages” FOX 2 5/5/2022
  • Denver implemented a “sanctioned encampment” where residents have begun a formal appeal process to remove them. NM Sun 6/3/22
  • 65 cities across the US have implemented ordinances to remove encampments. NM Sun 6/3/22

Albuquerque is Already Spending Massive Amounts for Mental Health and Drug Treatment and Homeless Services

  • The 2023 budget funds $60 million dollars to housing and homeless services.
  • The city runs the Westside shelter with over 100 beds that are unused every night.
  • The city also contracts with 10 other homeless organizations that provide shelter, support and mental health and drug abuse programs
  • The city bought the Gibson “Gateway Homeless Center” for $15 million dollars, added another $5 million for construction and another $5 million for operations in the 2023 budget.
  • The city funded over $25 million dollars in the 2023 budget for housing vouchers, and has designated another $20 million in a GRT bond package in May 2022.

A Large Percent of Homeless were Homeless in Another City Before Coming to Albuquerque

  • Should Albuquerque be responsible for homeless people who have migrated from other cities?
  • AFR medics have said that 3 out of 4 people they transport to the West Side Shelter said they were already homeless before they came to Albuquerque and they came because they heard Albuquerque would leave them alone.

The US Interagency Council on Homeless Provides Caution to “Sanctioned Encampments” or “Safe Zones”

  • The agency cautions the approach saying tent encampments are costly and don’t provide a solution to homelessness in a May 2018 report.
    • Creating these environments may make it look and feel like the community is taking action to end homelessness on the surface – but, by themselves, they have little impact on reducing homelessness
    • Costly in money, staff time, and effort
    • Prove difficult to manage and maintain
    • Proposed as “temporary” approaches, they are in fact difficult to close once they open.

What Should Albuquerque Do?

  • Create a comprehensive plan that includes all organizations that provide temporary shelter with heat and running water, drug treatment, mental health, and other programs that meet the needs of the unsheltered.
  • Study not just the amount of unsheltered on the streets on any given night, but also available beds on any given night and make sure that all available beds are used by those who want them.  (At least 100 beds are unused on any given night at the West Side Shelter)
  • Ensure that the millions of city dollars that fund mental health are focused on those that need it the most that are on the streets.
  • Complete the $15 million (plus $5 in budget) Gateway Center and get it helping people and providing services and shelter for the unsheltered.
  • Permanently clear tent encampments and enforce loitering and trespassing laws.